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Activity and strategy

Going to the Library with a Child Who has a Visual Impairment and Adaptive Needs

Create a positive experience when going to the library in your community with your child by supporting their needs and making reading books fun!

Little boy reading a book on a soft bench at the library. Books are on shelves around him.

Going to a community library can be a very enjoyable experience for children of all ages. The idea of exploring rows of books and picking some to take home and read can be a literacy motivator. If your child has a visual impairment, there may be concern over what books are accessible to them and navigating a new environment without creating stress.

Take time with the excursion if the child needs time adapting to new environments. The first visit may just be a simple exploration of the space and picking up a few books already pulled for them.

Make a Plan

Before going to the library with your child, contact the librarian at your local library and discuss your specific needs. Is your child a pre-braille or braille reader? Do they read large print? Would they enjoy textured books? What books are available to them?

If the library does not have braille books readily available, ask them to order some books specific to your child’s age, reading ability, and interests using the NLS (National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled). The materials can also be delivered to the home.

Make sure the library is accessible if your child has a wheelchair, needs braille cards for orientation and mobility of the space, or could benefit from a time when there are not groups in the library, which may create noise.

The National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled

The NLS has all the information to find a library in your area.

The NLS serves its patrons through a network of cooperating libraries. Your local network library can help you sign up for free special-format library service, assist with issues concerning equipment, suggest and locate titles of interest to you, and help you receive access to the BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) website and app. All of these interactions can be done remotely, via telephone, fax, postage-free mail, or e-mail.

All network libraries provide access to NLS-produced braille and talking books and magazines, which they circulate via postage-free mail. Some libraries have additional collections, including large-print books and described DVDs. Contact your library today to find out what services they can offer you.

Does the library have story hour for students that have adapted needs?

Many libraries offer story hours and special activities for children, especially in the summer. Find out if they offer adapted story hours for sensory needs and if not, could they create one?

Sometimes just creating a story box or having objects the go with the story, can create a richer experience for children with visual impairments. Also, ask the librarian if they have an extra book to give the child or at least view the one they have after they are done reading it.

Strategies and Ideas for Going to the Library for Individuals Who Have Autism

This download from HANDS in Autism is a 2-page PDF that contains:

  • Sample social narrative about visiting the library
  • Sample visual schedule for visiting the library
  • Suggestions for visual supports to bring along to aid with voice volume, transition between activities, and more

Interview: Conversations With a Librarian

Librarian Renee Toy, from Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, shares ideas on summer reading for students who are blind or visually impaired, including book suggestions for students of all ages, discussion of setting up a Maker Space in the library, Bookshare, and more.

Make it Your Own

Each child has their own strengths and needs which is the most important factor to consider when structuring an activity. Going to the library should be no different. Make this a time that connects them with you and your love of literacy.

Going to the Library with a Child Who has a Visual Impairment title with a photo of a little boy who is reading a book on a soft bench in the library.
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