Texas Focus 2007

The World on a String:

Connecting through the

Expanded Core Curriculum

Parents and

the Expanded Core Curriculum

Cay Holbrook

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

1:00 PM – 3:30 PM

Supporting Literacy Acquisition in the Home

Cay Holbrook

Texas Focus

June 20, 2007

Link to the Curriculum

  Parallel to the Core Curriculum (reading, writing, language arts)

  Compensatory Skills (including Communication Modes)

  Critical to academic, vocational, social, recreational success

  Key to a child’s definition of self

Assumptions Before We Start

  Parents are their child’s first teachers!

  Parents play an early and on-going role in the acquisition of literacy skills for their child.

  Children with visual impairments can and do develop literacy skills at the same rate and with the same excitement as children with typical vision, given appropriate support.


  Children with visual impairments need rich and varied experiences equal to those of their sighted peers.

  Children who are blind or visually impaired use a variety of methods to gather information. Each of these methods is a valuable part of the child’s “literacy toolbox”.

  Individual decisions should be made based on individual strengths and challenges.

  Print and braille have equal value as literacy media.

Who will help you?

  Teachers of students with visual impairments.

  Preschool and classroom teachers

  Local library/local literacy councils

  Other parents/parent support groups

Do you need to learn braille?

  Yes.

Clarification of Previous Slide

  There is no substitute for knowing braille to be fully involved with your child.

  Changes are occurring in the acceptance of early literacy experiences in fully uncontracted braille.

  Parents, sibling and other family members can support literacy development more fully by knowing contracted or uncontracted braille.

Experiencing with…

  Literacy in Daily Life

  Using Senses

  Common Activities

  Developing Basic Concepts

  Understanding Words and Letter Sounds

  Books

  Pictures

  Reading Aloud

  Shared Reading

  Writing

Experiencing Literacy: A Parents’ Guide for Fostering Early Literacy Development of Children with Visual Impairments by Cay Holbrook and Alan Koenig

Available from the Overbrook School for the Blind

Ideas for Adapting Books

As part of fostering early literacy development for your child, you will want to have a wide variety of interesting books in your home. While some adapted books can be borrowed from nonprofit agencies or purchased from commercial companies, you will also need to adapt or make other books on your own. Some simple strategies for adapting books will go a long way in expanding the range of books that can be enjoyed by your son or daughter. Here are some ways to adapt books:

  Create book bags for books that will be used for reading aloud and shared reading. A book bag contains a variety of important objects that go along with a particular story. As you read the book, your child can explore the objects that accompany a certain page or part of the book. The objects in a book bag, along with some description and discussion by you, provide a wonderful substitute for pictures in books. In assembling a book bag, look for objects that portray essential elements (not all elements) of the story. For example, a book bag for Goldilocks and the Three Bears might include three stuffed toy bears (two adults and one baby bear) and three real bowls of different sizes. Since chairs and beds wouldn’t fit in a book bag, real chairs and beds from the home can be explored and compared as part of the literacy experience. A nice extension would be to have porridge (oatmeal) for breakfast. Book bags are a wonderful addition to any book and are equally as helpful and enjoyable for children who read braille and for children who read print.

  Create print-braille versions of books if your child is learning or may learn braille. If you are unsure, then provide both print and braille. When using the shared reading strategy (see Experiences with Shared Reading, p.) to promote early braille reading, it is essential to have a braille version of the book. While not essential when reading aloud to your child, it is desirable to have braille available. For young children, a print-braille version literally contains both print and braille in the same book. There are three simple ways to create print-braille books:

· Use a braille labeler (see Information on Resources, p.) to create braille labels for a book containing a very small amount of print. The braille labels are then placed above or under the print words.

· Use sheets of stick-on transparent plastic (see Information on Resources, p.). In this approach, you use a Perkins Brailler (see How to Use a Perkins Brailler, p.) or a slate and stylus (see How to Use a Slate and Stylus, p.) to braille on the sheets, then cut them to size, and stick them on the appropriate page.

· When there is a lot of printed text on a page, the space may not be sufficient for the brailled text. Insert additional clear plastic sheets for any run-over text (e.g., the sheets used for transparencies, two sheets of lamination film attached together). Remove the binding of the book and interleaf the braille pages into the print version of the book. Then the book can be rebound using a plastic comb binder or some other binding method.

  Create original tactile books that relate specifically to your child’s experiences. These books might contain objects alone or include a braille story (see Ideas for Writing Experience Stories, p.). Objects can be glued to pages or placed in envelopes, plastic bags, or other holders that are bound within the books. The advantage of placing the objects in some kind of holder is that they can be taken out and explored thoroughly. Objects that are glued to a page will limit tactile exploration.

  Include tactile pictures sparingly. Using raised lines on a printed picture will not convey the same information to a child who is examining it tactilely (see Ideas for Producing Simple Tactile Materials, p.). Real objects, supported by actual, concrete experiences with the events, are often the best substitute for the pictures in books.

  Label books with an object on the cover. Gluing an identifiable object on the cover of a book will provide a way for your child to locate specific books. This object will become the title for the book, and your child will refer to this symbol when selecting his or her favorite books to read.

Be creative in storing adapted books. Since these books tend to be bigger and have greater bulk (because of the tactile materials and objects in them), they may not store evenly on a self. Placing adapted books in a box will allow them to be stacked in an organized manner on a shelf. Be sure to include the title of the book and an identifying object on the outside of the box, so your child can easily find the desired book. Another option, especially for book bags, is to attach the bags to a hanger and hang them on a rod. The goal is to have an organized collection of books that will allow your child to browse through them and make the selection he or she wishes to enjoy.

From: Holbrook, C. and Koenig, A.J. (2005). Experiencing literacy: A parents’ guide for fostering early literacy development of children with visual impairments. Philadelphia, PA: Towers Press.

Ideas for Writing Experience Stories

Your child needs to have access to reading materials that are meaningful and understandable given his or her experiential background. One way to ensure this is to use your child’s personal experiences as the basis for stories and books. These are typically referred to as experience stories.

Stories are meaningful when young children have experiences with the events and activities portrayed in the story. For example, if a story is about splashing in the local swimming pool, your child will be able to understand the story if he or she has had experience with splashing in a pool. It does not have to be exactly the same, but should be similar. If another story is about the antics of a roadrunner, and your child has never encountered a roadrunner, such as petting one at a petting zoo or feeling one that has been prepared by a taxidermist, then the story will be less meaningful or not meaningful at all.

Stories for young children should be within their range of experiences. However, as children grow older and have a solid foundation of experiences, then they will use books to expand their knowledge beyond their own experiences. For example, if your child has been on an airplane and has explored models of space shuttles, then stories related to space exploration will allow him or her to gain knowledge of something that is not likely to ever be a personal experience. The point is to have a solid foundation of early experiences, since this is how your child’s concepts about his or her environment are formed (see Experiences with Common Activities, p.). Here are the steps in writing an experience story:

  Arrange an experience for your child. This might be something that is a typical part of your daily routine, such as going to the supermarket or playing at the city park. Or the experience might be something that is special or unique, such as a trip on an airplane to visit grandparents at Thanksgiving.

  Take time throughout the experience for your child to explore, using all of his or her senses. For example, in the supermarket, take time to explore the way in which the shopping carts are stacked together, the way that can goods are stacked on the shelves, the way that produce is stored in refrigerated units or in ice, and so forth. Be sure to have your child explore tactilely as much as possible and when appropriate. Of course, some items, such as fresh-baked donuts, cannot be touched unless they are purchased. If possible, collect some items from the experience to put into the book later on, such as a small paper bag from the supermarket, a wrapper from a purchased item, and the sales receipt.

  Sit down with your child right after the experience and say, “Let’s write a story about [the experience].” You might want to start with a title, though sometimes it is easier to write the title at the end of the story. If your child has trouble getting started, you might prompt, “What did we do first? Then…? What happened next?” Write down the story as your child tells it, using his or her exact words. If your child reads print, then write in the size of letters that are easiest for him or her to read (see Ideas for Arranging the Visual Environment for your Child with Low Vision, p.). If your child reads braille, write the story in braille using a brailler or slate and stylus. If you do not know braille, ask a teacher of students with visual impairments or a blind friend to transcribe the story.

  Read the story aloud to your child as soon as you finish writing it. Since your child just told you the story, he or she will probably want to help you read the story, and this should be encouraged.

  Make a book out of the story. Put a piece of posterboard or a heavy piece of paper on the front or back and mount the story inside. Feel free to be creative. For example, you might use small paper bags for the front and back covers. Also, you might want to include other objects inside the book that will remind your child of the experience. Placing a very identifiable object on the front cover or drawing a picture, along with a print-braille title, will help your child identify this special book.

  Continue to read the book over and over again in the days and weeks to come. This will be an important book for your child, and he or she will likely continue to enjoy it. As you continue to re-read the book, you will probably find that your child wants to read along. Allowing and encouraging your child to help with the reading is a very valuable literacy experience (see Experiences with Shared Reading, p.).

  Add more books to your child’s library based on his or her own experiences. This can be a continuing source of fun and enjoyment throughout your child’s toddler and preschool years and even into elementary school. Also, expanding your child’s range of experiences is very important—not only to literacy development, but to everything else that he or she learns.

From: Holbrook, C. and Koenig, A.J. (2005). Experiencing literacy: A parents’ guide for fostering early literacy development of children with visual impairments. Philadelphia, PA: Towers Press.


2007 Texas Focus - Holbrook