Fostering Beginning Braille Literacy Skills in a Supportive School Library Setting!

School Libraries! A placed filled with endless literacy opportunities and reading adventures. Just take one look around your school library and you will find numerous ways to foster reading, writing and literacy skills in the large print and Braille reader. Find countless positive ways to successfully instruct, integrate and model the seemingly endless low vision and Braille educational tools! Foster the use of large print, twin vision (Braille/print) and Braille specialized materials into library lessons along with sighted peers. Your large print and Braille reader will enjoy the real meaning of “Least Restrictive Environment” as well as fostering positive educational interactions with sighted peers. The benefits are great when you share large print and Braille specialized resources in a positive structured or incidental educational setting. Specialized materials and strategies will promote maximum literacy skills for your large print and Braille reader as well as provide a unique opportunity for sharing these materials and techniques with the sighted student.

Promote and cultivate your low vision and blind child’s literary skills and reading success in the school library with meaningful, low vision, large print and Braille specialized accommodations and materials.

1. Introduce your child/student to the librarian and library staff prior to the first day of school.

2. Schedule an Orientation & Mobility lesson with your child’s O & M specialist to explore the school library. This lesson can be coordinated with your Teacher of the Blind to address specialized material needs and low vision/braille labeling.

3. Discuss stocking the library with large print, twin vision (braille/print) and Braille books with consideration of your child’s age/grade and/or reading level. The library should contain a selection of books for the large print and braille reader that corresponds to book titles provided for the sighted student. In addition, include specialized titles demonstrating positive low vision and blind role models fostering a positive self-image. Include high motivational reading materials to address your child’s specific reading interests and hobbies.

4. Identify a specific location in the library for large print and Braille books. Label each section appropriately in large print or Braille so that they are easily accessible by low vision and Braille readers. Continue to integrate and build upon your library with a combination of new large print and Braille books and books already read (and no longer required) from the classroom, Braille lesson and/or home setting.

5. Having a large print and/or Braille book section in your library provides the librarian the opportunity to include these books into small group reading activities. It’s a great opportunity for the librarian to integrate specialized large print and Braille materials for the low vision and blind student along with sighted peers in a naturally occurring educational setting.

6. Make sure that your large print and Braille reader has a laptop copy of the book being read by the librarian/staff. This provides the student with the opportunity to follow along and develop visual and/or tactile tracking while developing literacy skills. It’s about taking advantage of every literacy opportunity in each incidental educational setting.

7. Build your low vision/blind students confidence by having them read a favorite or familiar large print or braille book to a small group of peers or even a younger group of students. Reading to peers is a functional use of low vision and/or Braille materials in a wonderful natural school setting.

8. Incorporate auditory keyboard software on one of the library computers and in the school computer room to develop beginning keyboarding and literacy skills. Keyboarding skills are essential and should include both 6-key and QWERTY instruction. Make sure your child’s technology/keyboarding skills, goals and equipment needs are individually evaluated by your technology specialist. He/she should be familiar with the most updated assessment, software and material tools for the low vision and blind student. Initiate student keyboarding early and practice often while integrating technology skills into the classroom setting. Enlist appropriate staff (teacher, Braille teacher and Occupational Therapist) to develop your child’s finger strength, accuracy and speed of keyboarding. Remember that keyboarding including both 6-key and QWERTY opens up a world of options when making future technology choices. Six-key and QWERTY keyboarding is also an opportunity to reinforce true literacy using both the Literary Braille code and spelling as used by the sighted.

9. Consider having a high contrast computer keyboard for your low vision student. Consult with your Teacher of the Blind and Partially Sighted regarding specific keyboard contrast recommendations.

10. Work with your librarian in developing a large print or Braille library card. This is a functional way to encourage reading and develop the typical responsibilities for “checking out” and “returning” low vision and/or Braille books in a timely manner.

11. A consistent supply and rotation of large print or Braille books provides ongoing accessible lendable literacy resources for your low vision and/or blind student while encouraging reading in the home setting.

12. There are a variety of school magazines available to the low vision and Braille reader. Consider placing large print and Braille magazines in the library as resources for loan. The American Printing House for the Blind is a good start to discover some of these useful material resources.

13. Label book shelves in large print and/or braille as required for your student. Labeling book sections will foster beginning organized tactile scanning skills. Shelves can be organized into grade level, twin vision/braille, subject matter, fiction/non-fiction, biography etc.

14. Helen Keller week is typically celebrated in the school setting. Make the most of this celebration with inclusion of a low vision and Braille “show and tell” of specialized materials presented in the library setting. Include items that Helen Keller would have used during her lifetime in addition to low vision and Braille specialized materials used in today’s educational setting. Showcase Braille books, a Braille Writer, slate & stylus, cane and Braille materials used by your Blind student.

15. Include large print/Braille books of historical figures and famous low vision and blind individuals that made a significant positive contribution or present as great role models. There are a variety of good books available and these should be included in your student’s library selections.

16. Establish a connection with your local library. Identify the process of obtaining appropriate large print and braille books for your child/student from the local library. Discuss appropriate larger print and Braille labels so that your child/student can navigate the appropriate book sections. See if your local library would like donations of your child’s gently used braille books to build their braille book collection. Donations of gently used braille books may be a welcome resource. Consider an orientation and mobility lesson for your child in the local library setting.

Actively seek out your child’s Teacher of the Blind and Partially Sighted, Orientation and Mobility Specialist and technology specialist to address your child’s specific individualized educational library needs.

Even though this is not an inclusive list, it should get you off to a good start in addressing individualized library accommodations for your child.

So, don’t forget to establish a large print and/or Braille lending library to develop your low vision and Braille reader’s literacy skills!

BRAILLE LITERACY…

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