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Teaching Emergent Literacy Skills To Kindergarten Students in a Braille/Print Program

This article includes general strategies for building the foundation for literacy, as well as suggestions for creating books for young children who are blind or visually impaired.

part of a plastic plate and cup are glued to a page

The image above was taken by Sandy Gillam.

By Duncan McGregor, Ed.D. & Carol Farrenkopf, Ed.D.


  • Experiential learning (literacy instruction rooted in experiences)
  • Link new experiences with those already learned
  • Use concrete objects whenever possible
  • Learn by doing
  • Unify experiences
  • Pair real objects with representational forms (pictures, miniatures)
  • Pair real objects with symbolic forms (print, braille)
  • Read aloud to and with the student
  • Pretend reading by the student
  • Pretend writing by the student
  • Use repeated readings to build fluency and confidence
  • Integrate instruction of the mechanics of reading and writing (how to turn the pages, identifying the cover of a book, finding the page number, locating the print/braille text, learning how to put the paper in a braille writer, learning how to hold a marker/crayon/pencil, the act of writing/brailling)

Building the Foundation for Literacy

  • Time: Print/braille instruction every day, 1 – 2 hours per day, direct instruction as well as integrated instruction at other times of the day
  • Consistency: Same teaching schedule (avoid cancellations), same teacher of the visually impaired, same teaching style, same expectations
  • Exposure: Braille/print labels throughout the student’s school environment (label as much as you can), especially in the classroom
  • Accessibility: Braille/print books in the classroom and school library
  • Application: Opportunities to apply braille/print reading and writing skills throughout the day, in various environments (gym, office, washrooms, library)

Two Types of Books You Can Create

  1. Concept Books (e.g., letters, numbers, words, shapes, size, position, colours, classification/categories).
  2. Story Books
    1. Mass-produced books that can be adapted (simple, easy-to-read, large type, clear pictures)
    2. Photocopy of already-made books (e.g., Sunshine Series)
    3. Made-up stories (by you, the student, other children, parents)

Creating a Braille/Print Book


  • Two sturdy book covers (e.g., heavy construction paper, artists’ board, “real” braille book covers, file folders, cardboard)
  • Binding (usually 1 inch binding is a good size… it’s easier to turn pages with larger binding); binder rings, twist-ties, pipe-cleaners, string, and floral wiring also work well.
  • Braille paper (to make the pages in the book)… usually 4 – 5 pages in the book is a good number to start off with for a young child
  • Crayons/coloured markers/black marker to colour pages
  • Glue stick and/or hot glue gun
  • Tape
  • Concrete, familiar items to put in the book that are related to the topic of the book
  • Scissors
  • Braille writer/slate and stylus
  • Braille labeling sheets or Dymotape
  • Photocopied and enlarged pages of a story (if making this type of book)

Creating a Book FOR a Student


  • Determine an appropriate topic for the book.
  • If creating a letter book, base the book on a letter the student already knows or is learning (start with the first letter of the child’s name).
  • If creating a number book, keep the number of items on a page within the capabilities of the child (by gr. 1, most children know how to count to 30).
  • If creating a shape book, consider making the cover and the pages of the book the shape of the topic (e.g., circular-shaped book about circles).
  • If creating a positional book, carefully consider the placement of items on the page so as not to confuse the student.
  • Indicate the page number in braille and in print on each page of the book.
  • Include some sort of object on the cover that indicates what the book is about so the student can identify the book independently.
  • Include a print and braille title on the cover of the book.
  • Braille the text on the bottom of the page so text can be changed easily (if need be); it also allows more space for items to be put on the page.
  • If the book is an enlarged photocopy of a book, colour in only one or two identifying parts of the pictures—too much colour may cause confusion; colour only what is most important (raised lines and textures may also help the student focus attention to the most important parts of the story).
  • Use strong fasteners (e.g., glue, tape, pipe cleaners) to keep the objects from falling out of the book. Placing objects in plastic bags that can be opened/unzipped is also a good idea.
  • Use large binding materials because all of the objects inside the book will make it an extra thick book.
  • Initially, read the book together. Allow the student to guess at the content and pretend to read what it says.
  • Encourage proper position of the book, fingers over the braille, scanning of the pages, and turning only one page at a time.
  • Make reading the book as fun as possible!

Creating a Book WITH a Student


  • Have all of the book-making materials with you (binding, covers with pre-cut binding holes, braille paper with holes, glue, objects, etc.).
  • Allow the student to direct the creation of the book.
  • Bring a bag or box of all the materials you think the student may want to include in his/her book—include a wide variety of items so the student may choose some items over others.


  • Place items that can be used in the book in the student’s classroom/work area so that he/she can “discover” them accidentally.
  • Allow the student to be creative with his/her stories and the placement of objects in the books.
  • If the student is creating a story based on a storybook that has already been made, review the original story first and then use that book as a model for the new one the student is creating.
  • With the teacher’s assistance, the student may braille the text at the bottom of the page.
  • Think about including another child in the book-making experience.
  • Encourage the child to read (or pretend to read) the book aloud—encourage smooth line tracking while the child reads the line of braille).

Some Final Suggestions

  • Include the books in the classroom/school library.
  • Encourage the child to share his/her book with classmates.
  • Allow the child to take the book home to share with friends/family.
  • Start a book club.
  • Have lots of fun!

This article was originally published by Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) and is reprinted here with permission.

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