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Editor's Note: This flyer was published June, 1988, by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the Library of Congress. For additional copies of the flyer please write to: National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, The Library of Congress, Attention: Ms. Charlynn Spencer Pyne, Washington, DC 20542.
For all preschoolers, storytime is an introduction to books, stories, and language. It is also an early experience in social interaction with other children and with adults other than parents. It is an experience that can be shared by all children, those with visual impairments and those who are fully sighted.
The librarian needs no special skills or training to include successfully a blind or visually impaired child, only experience and expertise in sharing stories with children. The tips in this flyer are provided as suggestions for making the experience more meaningful, and to help librarians encourage visually impaired children to come to storytime.
Introduce yourself directly, addressing the child by name. From your introduction, the child
Page 18 learns where you are. If you walk away from the area, also let the child know that you are leaving.
Take a moment to observe how the child responds to the surroundings and to other people. Learn about the child's visual abilities through observation and by talking with the child. This will give you an idea of how much assistance this particular child will need.
Do not hesitate to use visual words such as "see" and "show." These words are common in the language, and the child will use them comfortably.
On the first visit, introduce the child to the area, showing where the furniture, equipment, drinking fountain, restrooms, and any special items are. If you rearrange the area, let the child know. Pointing, nodding, or saying "Over there" will probably not convey the intended information.
Introduce the child to the group, as you do other children, and encourage everyone to use the child's name when speaking to him or her. Encourage the child to answer any questions other children have about his or her handicap.
Allow your acceptance of the child to show; children in the group will take their cues from you.
Selecting the Story
The primary consideration for visually impaired children is that the story must be able to stand alone without illustrations or be supplemented with verbal descriptions. Also, the language must flow well when presented verbally. Without illustrations, the language and presentation take on extra importance in conveying the story.
Folk tales are usually excellent choices, not only for all the usual reasons that they appeal to children, but also because they are rich in narrative language. Because tales have been passed down verbally, most adaptations are not dependent on the illustrations.
Ways to Present and Reinforce the Story
Because some visual experiences may not be familiar to the visually impaired preschooler, occurrences, shapes, and sizes may need to be explained (e.g., bird sitting in the trees, the size of a house, description of a circus).
Audiovisual materials can be used successfully, but select those for which you can verbally fill in information that is presented visually.
Braille, recorded, and print/Braille children's books produced by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) are available throughout the country from a network of cooperating libraries. For more information, public libraries and parents should contact the local cooperating library or NLS for referral.
Commercial tapes and records of music, songs, and games and stories should be made available. Parents and children may need to be told that these items are available from the public library.
The key element is enjoyment; the librarian is the link between the joy of reading and the pleasure of sharing with others. The librarian's acceptance and enjoyment of the visually impaired child will foster sharing and enjoyment among all children.
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