Activities to Promote Early Literacy
Reading aloud throughout the day or as a step in a bedtime routine can become not only a treasured bonding time between you and your child who is blind or visually impaired but also can become an ongoing opportunity to instill a love of reading and learning. But, how can one immerse a child who is blind or visually impaired into literature when he or she isn’t able to perceive the text or identify the illustrations? Below you will find a list of suggestions to make reading and writing meaningful and engaging for a child with vision loss.
Assemble separate “book bags” that each contain objects featured in a particular story to add interest to storytelling and convey important concepts (See “Reading Comes Naturally.” Pull each object out of the bag at the appropriate moment in the story. A child’s understanding of a book like If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (Numeroff, 1985) is enhanced when real objects, such as a glass, a straw, a napkin, a mirror, and a small broom, are used to illustrate the text.
Attach a tactile clue like a small object or textured shape on the covers of favorite print or braille books to help your child identify them easily. Children love to hear the same books over and over again and being able to locate a desired book easily is one step toward becoming an independent reader.
Adapt favorite print books at the early reading level by sticking a key braille word related to the story on each print page along with a very simple tactile picture, for example, a round felt circle to represent a cat. Be sure the child has experienced the real object so that the picture will be meaningful. You can put the same word and picture on each page or vary them. As you read the book aloud, have the child search each page to find the picture and the braille word.
Encourage your child to turn the pages of a well-known book and “retell” the story in her own words. This early approximation of reading behavior is an important step for all children, whether blind or sighted.
Help your child label belongings and important landmarks such as a toy box, drawer, or coat hook in braille. Use braille labels or ClearLabels, plastic sheets resembling contact paper which fit in the brailler or slate and can be stuck to any surface.
Pair the braille name with a tactile marker, like a square of corrugated cardboard or stick-on felt, if the child needs a larger tactile clue to find the object independently.
In addition to modeling how to write on the brailler, provide your preschooler with opportunities to “scribble” on the brailler by pressing random keys independently. Sometimes children prefer to stand when writing, as this gives them more leverage. Encourage your child to take the paper out of the braillewriter and “read” back what was written.
Talk about letter sounds at every opportunity to develop phonemic awareness and phonics skills. Make them a part of your conversation as you walk to the bus, fix a snack, or introduce your child to a new friend. Emphasize the initial consonant sound of each word you talk about and name the letter that makes that sound. Play rhyming games, “I’m thinking of something in this room that rhymes with ‘hair’ and starts with ‘b.’ It’s your soft, fuzzy ____.” Read poems with rhyming words aloud, leaving out the rhyme every so often to see if your child can guess the missing word.