Veronica With Four Eyes

TumbleBooks: Audio Narrated Picture Books For Low Vision

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?” I have a print disability that makes it near impossible for me to read books in traditional formats, and I remember wondering why so many books seemed to be printed with blurry fonts, not realizing that my low vision was playing a role in why I had trouble reading. TumbleBooks is a free library of picture books that include a mix of new titles and classic picture books, and today I will be sharing my tips for how to access TumbleBooks audio narrated picture books with print disabilities, with a special focus on low vision.

How to set up TumbleBooks

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 is available as an Android app, iOS app, or through the web browser with no downloads required.

Related links

TumbleBooks interface

There are a few different types of content available on TumbleBooks, and the majority of TumbleBooks are targeted at elementary school aged readers. Readers who are comfortable with selecting items from a list, play/pausing a video, and scrolling through a list of options can use TumbleBooks independently.

Types of content available on TumbleBooks include:

  • Story books. These are picture books that are played in a video player.
  • Read-alongs. These are chapter books that are displayed in print and read out loud by a natural sounding voice, highlighting lines as they are read out loud
  • eBooks. Chapter books that do not have read aloud enabled, but do have adjustable font options
  • Graphic novels. Illustrated books that do not have read aloud enabled.
  • Nonfiction. Illustrated nonfiction books that are played in a video player.
  • Videos. Educational videos from a variety of different publishers, including Animalogic
  • Language learning. Read aloud titles in French and Spanish, played in the video player
  • Playlists. A curated collection of books and videos about a given topic

Reading a title from TumbleBooks

TumbleBooks are unabridged versions of popular children’s books, and content played in the video player has additional sound effects, music, and human narration.

Story books, nonfiction, and language learning titles

These types of books are played in a pop-up video player, which has eight different buttons, which are listed in order from left to right and top to bottom:

  • X closes the video player
  • A Automatically turn pages and advance to the next page
  • M enables manual page turns, which are done by pressing the previous or next buttons at the bottom of the screen
  • Volume and sound effects on/off
  • Help on/help off. I think this is supposed to show information about the buttons, but no text was displayed when I tested it.
  • Previous goes to the previous page
  • Play/pause
  • Next goes to the next page

Read alongs and eBooks

Text is displayed on the screen and is highlighted as it is read out loud for read-alongs. Buttons on the screen include:

  • X to close
  • Play audio
  • Previous page
  • Chapter menu. Shows the table of contents
  • Bookmark. Create bookmark or go to existing bookmark
  • Text options. Customize text size, spacing, and font
  • Colour options. Choose the text and background color
  • My notes. Add notes for each chapter
  • Help. View a list of instructions.

Graphic novels

Graphic novels have very few options compared to other content.

  • Chapter menu. Shows the table of contents.
  • Page menu. Navigate to different pages within the chapter, most are in 5-page increments
  • Previous page
  • Next page
  • Users also have the option to use up/down scrolling to navigate between pages in each chapter


Playlists automatically play a selection of books on the video player for a set amount of time, and are designed to automatically play. Each title in the playlist is also available individually in TumbleBooks. Buttons for the playlist view include:

  • X to close
  • Play/pause
  • Previous book
  • Next book
  • Delete book/remove from playlist

Related links

TumbleBooks accessibility : using TumbleBooks with assistive technology

TumbleBooks and large print

The font sizes in the video player are large and highlighted as they are read out loud, but cannot be adjusted or changed. For users that want to display text at a larger size, I recommend using a tool like the Google Chromecast to cast the web application to a larger screen.

For read alongs and eBooks, there are multiple options for customizing text, including:

  • Font size
  • Font style- choose from Arial, Courier New, Georgia, Tahoma, Times New Roman, Verdana
  • Text color and background color

Graphic novels also do not support having fonts customized or changed, but can be mirrored to a larger screen with Google Chromecast.

TumbleBooks and screen magnification

The TumbleBooks website can be navigated with a screen magnification tool, and I prefer to use the Lens or Docked views to navigate the player controls or magnify the covers of books. Screen magnification is also a great option for reading graphic novels, which do not support other accessibility options. Pinch-to-zoom and browser zoom is also supported.

TumbleBooks and flashing lights

I am sensitive to strobe and flashing lights, and out of the 150+ titles I tested with TumbleBooks, none of them had strobe or flashing lights that were faster than a car blinker. Parents and teachers may want to check individual titles if photosensitivity is a concern.

TumbleBooks and screen readers

I tested TumbleBooks with the NVDA screen reader on the web application, as well as VoiceOver and TalkBack on the iOS and Android applications.

For the web browser, TumbleBooks can be navigated with a keyboard, with users having the option to search for books or browse individual categories. Titles are read out loud, but the play button is erroneously labeled as “previous”- it is button 2 of 3 in the lower menu. Text in eBooks and read alongs is recognized by the screen reader, but text in graphic novels are not.

For the mobile applications, there was no alt text for books and it was impossible to know which book was being selected unless the book details were opened, and it was also difficult to use the player. However, I was able to use VoiceOver and TalkBack within the web browser application, so I would recommend using the web browser on a mobile device instead of using the mobile application.

Related links

More tips for accessing TumbleBooks audio narrated picture books with low vision

  • Book details that are available for individual titles include author tags, illustrator tags, Accelerated Reader information, and Lexile information
  • Select titles also offer additional activities such as quizzes, though the font size cannot be adjusted. Users with low vision will need to use screen magnification to read quiz questions or use a screen reader
  • The search function works well even with spelling errors, as it has a built-in autocorrect feature, so students can easily search for their favorite titles
  • Looking for more audio narrated picture books? Check out Sora Free Audiobook Summer Reading Programs

Tips for using the free TumbleBooks app for accessing audio narrated picture books for elementary school students with low vision