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Presented by Sally Paterson, Learning Hub Manager


Today we are looking at the world of tactile illustrations in books for. For children who don’t have visual impairment they can obviously actually look at the pictures in the book and they can gain an understanding of what the story is about.  For the blind and visually impaired child, that’s much harder to do.  

So in order to help them understand what’s in the book is that we need to create actual physical pictures for them to explore.  When you’re teaching a child to read or to be interested in a book, then they need to understand that the pages turn, that the writing will sit on one side and go from left to right.  That when they keep turning the pages of the book that there will be a new picture on each page and then eventually when they have turned all the pages that they will come to the end of the book.

In order to start developing these skills with a very young child what you are trying to do is to get them to explore objects and to get an understanding of what objects feel like so that when you introduce them to a book they have some meaning.  Before you start introduction objects into a story book, it’s a good idea to give them an experience of feeling for an object and trying to guess what it is.  Something to do with a very young child is to develop a story bag or a story box.  In this story bag there are lots of objects beginning with the letter ‘B’, the sound ‘b’ and what you are encouraging a child to do is to explore in that bag and bring things out and tell you what they are.  

So for instance we have a box.  So you can talk to the child about that, you can talk about the fact that it has flat surfaces.  How many has it got?  You can count them.  It’s got corners.  Lots of things that you can encourage them in terms of their understanding of the fact that that, or something shaped like that is likely to be a box.  In here we’ve also got something that makes a sound as well.  So we’ve got bells.  Just spending time with your child, letting them explore, letting them feel what it’s like, what does it sound like.  Another thing that we have in here is a belt.  So again let them explore it.  Help them to fasten it, unfasten it.  Give them an idea of what the main characteristics of a belt are.  You’re really just helping them to develop clues, clues for how to explore and work out what things are by touch.  That then when they get them in another context they’ll have an idea of what those things might be.

Once a child is used to exploring objects using a story bag, you can then move on to putting these objects into a book.  This then encourages them to understand the format of a book, how it works and the objects will keep their attention.  Each page is designed so that they will look for the objects and because this is a counting book, then they are counting the objects.  They find out what one of them feels like and then see how many there are on the page.  We have the number 6 in tactile form for the child to trace the number and on this page we have 6 bells with the added experience of being able to hear them as well as to feel where the 6 are and count them.  All the objects in this book are stuck on with Velcro.  The reason for doing this is that you can actually take them off.  You can hand them to a child to explore but also you can create a game with them.  For instance you could remove several of them and then get the child to count and see how many were missing. 

Another example of one of these books is an alphabet book and what this book does is it takes the letters from ‘K’ to ‘O’ and on each page it’s going to give a tactile illustration for the letter ‘K’ or the sound ‘k’ we’ve got a key.  But also on the other side we begin to introduce the braille letters.  So we have the print letter with the braille letter next to it and we have a run of that braille letter.  So this time what we’re helping the child to do is to identify the link between the picture, which is our key on this page, and print which is on this page here.  The fact that the book is telling some kind of story.  

On this page we have the sound for the letter ‘M’ and in this case the tactile illustration is money.  These objects are Velcroed on again and it’s really good for being able to take them off and let the child explore them.

Once a child has experienced using tactile illustrations that are real objects within books then the next stage to move on to is to use a book like this, which basically has 3D imprints of real objects.  So there is a print version, there is a braille version of the poem and then there is a tactile imprint to explore.  

On this page, for example, we have a silly poem about peas and when we turn over to the tactile illustration you can see that we have a knife and we have the four peas next to it and it gives the child a good indication of what a knife is like without using the actual object.

It’s really important to remember that learning to interpret tactile illustrations is not an automatic skill for a blind or a visually impaired child.  So it is really important that you encourage them and with the right practice and support the world of books is opened up to a visually impaired child.

Learn More

Read our Introduction to Tactile Illustrations and Early Tactile Graphics .

Learn in depth with our video presentation: Early Years Principles of Tactile Graphics .

Last modified: Monday, 3 December 2018, 11:18 AM