Veronica With Four Eyes

How To Create An Accessible Classroom Library

When I was volunteering in an elementary school classroom, I had a student tell me how much they wished that they could read all of the different books that were in their classroom library. This student had a print disability that meant they were unable to read standard print, and they thought that this meant they were unable to read the same books as other students. However, I was able to show them that they could actually read all of the same books, they just would have to get them in a different format. Soon enough, the student was listening to several different audiobooks with their siblings and discovering books they had heard their friends talk about in the past. Creating an accessible classroom library was a major goal for their teacher, and today I will be sharing my tips for how to create an accessible classroom library or increase the number of accessible books for students.

What makes a classroom library accessible?

There are a few different definitions for accessible classroom library that range from the physical layout to the availability of books in non-English languages to the content in the books themselves. For the purposes of this post, I am talking about making a variety of books accessible for students with print disabilities, with a print disability being defined as a component of a learning, visual, or physical disability that keeps a person from being able to access materials in standard print.

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Examples of accessible book formats

Some examples of accessible book formats that students with print disabilities can access include:

  • Braille
  • Large print
  • Dual media/dual format books, which contain both print and Braille
  • Audiobooks
  • ePub or digital books
  • DAISY books (a specialty format for digital accessible books)

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Purchasing physical books in an accessible format

When purchasing books that are in an accessible format, look for titles that are in large print or Braille. One of the most common Braille books I have seen in classroom libraries are the ones from the DK Braille series, though many other Braille books can be found through the following services:

  • Amazon/Amazon Business
  • National Braille Press
  • Seedlings
  • Braille Bookstore

Large print books can also be purchased on Amazon/Amazon Business, and the National Library Service keeps a comprehensive list of ways to get a variety of large print materials.

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Assistive technology for physical books

There are a few different tools that can help students with low vision to read physical copies of books, though typically the assistive technology specialist or teacher of the visually impaired (TVI) will do assistive technology assessments for individual students. Some examples of assistive technology for physical books include:

  • Magnifying glasses
  • Video magnifiers
  • Scanning pens that can read text out loud
  • Stands to rest books on so that the student can read them at an angle

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Provide ways to access digital books

With my eye condition, I am unable to read a majority of traditional printed materials and prefer to read digital books. My dream classroom library would involve me being able to download a copy of whatever was on the bookshelf in large print or another preferred format to an electronic device that I could use in the classroom. 

Some examples of places to download books might include:

  • Bookshare
  • eBook retailer such as Amazon or Barnes and Noble
  • Learning Ally
  • State accessible materials center
  • BARD- Library of Congress
  • Audible

Examples of ways to read books in the classroom might include:

  • eReader
  • Tablet computer
  • MP3 player or iPod Touch

Another interesting way to read picture books would be to look up storytimes/readings of the book on the YouTube Kids app and to add the books to a curated playlist for students to explore, though this would probably be better for after school hours.

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Apps for interactive books

In addition to digital books in traditional accessible formats, there is a growing number of apps and services that allow students to access favorite books as well as exclusive books in a combined print and audio format. Some of the popular services I have worked with include:

  • TumbleBooks
  • RAZ Kids
  • Amazon Rapids
  • Epic!

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Funding an accessible classroom library

All of these ideas may seem interesting and great, but I recognize that many teachers do not have the funding to create their own accessible classroom library for low vision students, or even to create a classroom library in general. However, there are ways that teachers can get funding for their classroom libraries, such as through DonorsChoose. Some examples of items to request through DonorsChoose include:

  • Digital or physical copies of popular books, either listing specific titles or going through the reimbursement process
  • Specific technology devices, i.e a set of eReaders or a tablet
  • Memberships to premium versions of applications
  • Line trackers or other low-tech assistive technology

Special announcement

For the five-year anniversary of my website on November 14th 2021, I will be doing a special partnership with DonorsChoose to support students who are blind, low vision, or otherwise visually impaired. I can’t reveal too many details yet, but start putting together your projects now and make sure to include at least one of the following keywords in the project title or sections for “about my students” or “about my project”:

  • Blind
  • Low Vision
  • Vision impaired
  • Visually impaired
  • Vision loss

More details will be released in the coming days!

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Summary of how to create an accessible classroom library

  • An accessible classroom library, in this context, provides books in a variety of different formats for students with print disabilities
  • Examples of accessible books can include but are not limited to large print, Braille, dual format/dual media, ePub, and audiobooks
  • Large print and Braille books can be purchased through several online retailers
  • Digital books can be read on devices such as iPod Touch, eReaders, and tablets
  • Interactive book apps can allow students to listen to books and follow along with text
  • For teachers who need funding assistance, DonorsChoose is a great way to fund classroom libraries

Ideas on how to create an inclusive and accessible classroom library that benefits students with print disabilities, with a special focus on low vision and blind students



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