American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults
Future Reflections
       Special Issue: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)       REVIEW

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DK Braille Books

Reviewed by Janna Harvey

From the Editor: Janna Harvey is a teacher of the visually impaired in the suburbs of Chicago.

Shapes
ISBN: 9781465436122, 18 pages

Counting
ISBN: 9781465436139, 18 pages

Animals
ISBN: 9781465436115, 32 pages

On the Move
ISBN: 9781465436108, 32 pages

It Can't Be True
ISBN: 9781465444066, 72 pages

DK, a division of Penguin Random House, has recently launched a series of Braille books for children. The books combine tactile and visual features with Braille and large print to create a reading experience that can be enjoyed by both sighted and visually impaired readers.

DK Braille Books can be used in many ways. Blind parents and teachers can read the books with sighted or blind children, and sighted parents can read them with blind children. Sighted siblings and friends will be engaged as well, attracted by the colorful pictures on every page.

The series features preschool-level books on shapes and counting, as well as elementary-level books on animals, vehicles, and comparative size. All of the books include Braille and large print text along with tactile pictures on every page. The counting book adds interest by making use of a variety of textures: fuzzy, smooth, and even sticky. The remaining books mostly contain smooth raised pictures, but they have some varied textures as well. Uncontracted Braille is used in all of the books, and it follows the UEB rules for punctuation and numbers.

The book that I found most engaging and valuable is It Can't Be True: Incredible Tactile Comparisons. Many visually impaired children have difficulty with concept development because they cannot access certain objects--generally those that are very small or very large--via touch. It can be hard for a blind child to understand how big a shark is, since it is not usually possible to explore a real shark tactilely. This book displays tactile pictures of the largest shark in the world, the highest wave ever recorded, and much more. For comparison, each object is placed beside a tactile representation of something already familiar to children, such as the figure of a human being.

Each of the other books in the series contains a few features I found particularly helpful for blind and visually impaired readers. Animals has a brief quiz at the end that allows children to practice their tactile discrimination and concept development skills. It presents a few animal body parts that have already been displayed on previous pages and asks readers to identify them. Taking this quiz could be a fun activity for sighted readers to try with their eyes closed. Shapes features both cutout shapes and raised shapes. Learners can feel the shapes as negative space or as raised representations. This approach provides two distinct types of experience with each shape, encouraging generalization of concepts.

Counting offers a different and interesting texture on each page. I am sure the worms, which are actually sticky, will be a hit with young children.

On the Move encourages an understanding of comparative size as well as some science concepts. The brightly colored, realistic tactile pictures of tractors and monster trucks will excite blind and sighted readers alike. On the Move has a tactile quiz at the end similar to that found in Animals.

Finally, I liked the fact that in each book the Braille dots are not only crisp and raised but also printed in black. A sighted parent easily can see the exact Braille letters the child's fingers are passing over. This may help a parent be more aware of which Braille characters the child has trouble reading. It also helps reinforce the configurations of Braille letters for sighted parents or siblings who may be trying to learn the Braille code.

All in all, I definitely recommend DK Braille Books to visually impaired parents and to parents and teachers of the visually impaired. The books are available through Amazon and also can be purchased from Seedlings Braille Books for Children.

I applaud DK Books, a mainstream publisher, for recognizing the needs of Braille readers. DK Books has come up with a great concept, and I look forward to the company's future offerings.

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