I have always loved reading, and would get excited whenever I had the opportunity to check out new picture books from the library or receive books as gifts. As a young child with low vision, I sometimes wondered why certain books were printed with blurry illustrations or hard-to-read text, not realizing the role that my visual impairment played in my ability to read. Luckily, I’ve been able to revisit many of my favorite titles and discover new ones after learning how to find accessible picture books for low vision. Here are my favorite sources for accessible picture books for low vision readers, including physical books, digital books, braille, and audio formats.
Ordering dual media books online
Dual media books combine large print and braille so that readers of all sight levels can follow along with a story, which is a great option for blind/low vision parents reading to their sighted kids or sighted parents reading to blind/low vision kids. There are a few different sources for dual media books, including:
- Amazon/Amazon Business
- National Braille Press
- Braille Bookstore
When looking for accessible copies of physical books, I recommend visiting the Louis database maintained by American Printinghouse for the Blind, which allows users to search for accessible titles available online or at their local library. I also have linked a few other sources for finding accessible books in my post “How I Find Research Sources in Accessible Formats.”
- Find accessible educational materials | APH Louis
- How I Find Research Sources In Accessible Formats
- Therapy Dog Reading Programs and Low Vision
TumbleBooks multimedia videos
TumbleBooks is a free library of picture books that include a mix of new titles and classic picture books, and when I first learned about TumbleBooks and their online audio narrated picture books, one of the first questions I had was “where was this when I was a kid?” TumbleBooks is available for free through several public schools and public libraries, and does not require users to create an account to access the service. However, users may need to sign in through their school website or public library in order to get access to the unique TumbleBooks link for their school/library.
- TumbleBooks: Audio Narrated Picture Books For Low Vision
- Therapy Dog Reading Programs and Low Vision
Sora audio and picture books
Sora is a free audio and picture book application that is available through schools, libraries, and other online reading programs. Readers will need to register with an email address and provide an invite code or a valid library card number to access the Sora application. No other information is collected, and readers can borrow up to 1,000 titles at a time.
Audiobooks are stored in the Sora app and cannot be downloaded for use in another application. Sora can be accessed through their website, iOS, or Android applications.
- Sora Free Audiobook Summer Reading Programs
- Audio and Nonvisual Entertainment Ideas For Blind and Low Vision
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library
I recently saw an amazing interview on the Kelly Clarkson Show about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which gives children a free book every month from birth until age five. What a lot of people don’t realize about this program is that they partner with American Printinghouse for the Blind to share braille and dual media copies of each of the titles, free of charge for families, so that children can be introduced to important braille and pre-braille skills, as well as large print. To learn more about the Imagination Library program and eligibility requirements, visit the Imagination Library link below. It’s worth noting that many Imagination Library titles are also available on Bookshare in digital formats as well- more on that in a bit.
- Audio & Braille – Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library
- Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Helped Blind Child Become Braille Literate – YouTube
Similar to the Imagination Library, Braille Tales sends children with visual impairments 6 dual media books a year from when they are born until their sixth birthday. This program uses many of the same titles as the Imagination Library, but is available across all US ZIP codes. Blind and visually impaired parents of children under 6 years old can also receive books that they can read with their family.
Watching YouTube story times
Many authors, libraries, and even celebrities post videos online of themselves reading different children’s and picture books, and many of these story time events include descriptions of various illustrations within the book. Since searching the phrase “story time” alone may not provide a lot of relevant results, I recommend using the following terms or searching these specific channels:
- Library story time/Library storytime
- Kids book read aloud
- (title of book) read aloud/storytime
- Kids story time/kids storytime
- Read aloud books for (age/grade level)
- Storyline Online
- Scholastic Storybook Treasures (available in multiple languages)
Parents can put together a playlist of videos on the YouTube Kids app or create their own playlists for their kids to watch.
Accessible picture books on Bookshare
Bookshare is an accessible digital library for people with print disabilities that has almost one million titles and counting. Bookshare’s library is filled with a large variety of books, including textbooks, novels, New York Times bestsellers, cookbooks, children’s books, career resources, and so much more. New books are added frequently, and users can even request titles to be added to the library.
Bookshare books can be downloaded in multiple file formats, including:
- DocX (Word documents)
- MP3 (including a selection of human-read audiobooks)
- Refreshable Braille
- DAISY Audio
- Bookshare web reader for reading in web browsers
Bookshare is free for students enrolled in US schools, whether they are in kindergarten or getting their PhD. Bookshare books can be read in a variety of different applications, though I prefer to read picture books on my iPad so I can adjust the viewing angle more easily.
Reading physical books with Novel Effect sound effects
Novel Effect is a free app that uses voice recognition technology to add music, voices, and sound effects as books are read out loud in real time. Each soundtrack is custom-made for over 200 different books and poems for children of all ages (including Spanish titles), with new stories being added frequently. Users do not have to read at a specific pace or in a specific order to use Novel Effect, as the soundtrack goes at the reader’s pace and can pause automatically if needed. This is a great way to make reading out loud even more exciting for audiences with vision loss, or paired with other accessible materials.
Children’s magazines and books on the Libby app
The Libby app is a free application that allows users to link their library card and check out digital copies of books, magazines, audiobooks, and more. Libby users can check out an unlimited number of magazines, and there are several titles available for children, such as National Geographic Kids and Highlights for Children. Libby also offers several awesome children’s books available for check-out, including books and audiobooks by disabled authors.
Bonus- audiobooks with audio description
One of my favorite audiobooks that I’ve listened to recently is A.A Milne’s Winnie the Pooh- The Accessible Version. This audiobook is a full cast version of the original 1926 adventures of Winnie the Pooh with rich audio description and includes blind and low vision voice actors in the cast. I found this book on the Libby app and requested it through my library’s OverDrive service, but there are many other audiobooks for children’s titles available on Audible, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon, as well as books available for check-out.
Another free source for audiobooks targeted at children is the Bedtime.FM podcast, which offers free stories targeted at young children hosted by several podcast platforms.
- Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne · OverDrive: ebooks, audiobooks, and more for libraries and schools
- My Favorite Digital Library Resources For Low Vision
More tips for how to find accessible picture books for low vision
- Perkins School for the Blind’s Paths to Literacy blog has several posts on creating accessible copies of popular children’s books for kids with vision loss and multiple disabilities. Their website can be found at Paths to Literacy | For Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
- Many public libraries offer accessible books through the National Library Service’s Talking Books program- contact your local library or department for visual impairment for more information on eligibility
- Amazon StoryTime is a free skill that can play bedtime stories for kids 5-12, though I have removed it from my recommendations as there is no way to filter by age group, which could potentially expose younger users to age-inappropriate content