Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Tactile Color Words Book

green leaves with braille letters spelling out g-r-e-e-n

Teaching colors to students who can't see the color can be challenging. I like to create a color sheet for each word. The image to go with the color word needs to be tactile so the student can explore it while you discuss the color. The grid under the image with the Velcro is for the student to correctly spell the color word. A variation I've done with this is to ask the student to spell the color word (where appropriate) two ways. I've either added a second grid row or offered a Velcro board with different contractions on it for the student to spell the color word using the correct contractions.

By showing the student the two different ways to spell the color word, they see two things:

  1. the importance of contractions in braille as "space savers" 
  2. helps them when using the computer, oral spelling, etc.


When choosing the items to represent each color, I wandered down the scrapbooking aisles at Michaels. I tried to chose items that would lead to further discussions. For example, the fire truck is a complex 3D sticker. We could discuss the parts of a fire truck and perhaps schedule an O&M lesson to a fire station. I tried to hit a little science, holidays, things around a home and nutrition as well. By adding a tactile image, I can work with a student on learning how to 'read' the image in a systematic way.

pink flower

pink - flower

red firetruck

red - firetruck

brown cowboy boot

brown - cowboy boot

white - snowflake

white - snowflakes

black spiders

black - spiders

orange pumpkins

orange - pumpkins

blue butterfly

blue - butterfly

green ivy

green - leaves / ivy

gray duct tape

gray - duct tape

yellow wooden sun

yellow - wooden sun

purple grapes

purple - grapes

An art teacher told me about two books:
  1. "Hailstones and Halibut Bones" by Mary O'Neill. In this book, the author discusses the feelings (impressions) of each color that is personal to her. The students I have used this book with have all loved the book! It is available from National Braille Press in braille!
  2. "The Sound of Colors: A Journey of the Imagination" by Jimmy Liao. This book is about a young girl losing her vision. She takes a cane and goes on a subway ride using her imagination to take her on a journey.


I plan to start using this with the Building on Patterns Kindergarten curriculum as colors are introduced systematically there. They have pages with images on it for the students to color. As an extension to this activity, have the student create a color page of their own! Not to create a page to color, but to collect items from their home environment that they can associate with the color being worked on.

I like to change directionality of the binding. Our students need to see that sometimes the books are bound on top as well as on the right.


color book collage



Love it!

Posted by Caroline B

How Blind child understand colors

Posted by zaheer

Understanding Color

Posted by Charlotte Cushman

Posted on July 30, 2014
Updated on: February 7, 2018

Previous comments for Tactile Color Words Book

Charlotte Cushman commented on October 17, 2016

People who are blind often learn to associate certain color names with common things, and it is not unusual for someone with no vision to know that the sky is blue, the grass is green, and pumpkins are orange.  It may be helpful for a child without vision to learn which color his belongings are, so that he can try to keep track of them.  For example, knowing that a pair of shoes is red may be helpful if they are misplaced at school.

It may be helpful to teach the child the names of colors and their associations with certain items through the use of tactile symbols and braille.  The literacy activity on this page uses the braille letters of the color word paired with a tactile symbol, to help the child to learn to associate the two.

Another article that may be helpful is How Does a Blind Child Learn, which offers suggestions on teaching visual concepts to children who are totally blind.

If someone is totally blind and unable to see light or dark, then they will also not be able to see color.  There are means using electronic devices or apps, such as Color ID Free, that can tell someone the name of the color.


zaheer commented on October 17, 2016

How Blind child understand color

Caroline B commented on August 8, 2014

Was great meeting you at AER! Keep posting!