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Summer 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Holly Allen, Early Childhood Vision Consultant (ECVC), CNIB North Region, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Abstract: Reading a book with a young child should be fun for both the adult and child. Concrete experiences add meaning to stories. The author shares activities and recipes that can add meaning to three children’s books.

Key Words: , blind, visually impaired, deafblind, literacy, reading, concepts, essential experiences, early childhood, ECI

Books help set the stage for future success. Even at an early age books can be a very important part of every child’s life. Reading a book with your child provides an opportunity to nurture your child’s growth on many levels including socialization, language and concept development. This is true for both print and Braille readers. The ability to listen to a story is an important skill which will assist your child at school entry. All children benefit from time spent with a caring adult and a good book. However it can be argued that children who have vision loss need this experience even more. Without assistance from parents and caregivers, children who have vision loss are likely less aware of the role of print and Braille in daily life. So take a few minutes each day to read a book with your child. You will be adding much to your child’s store of knowledge about the world. Perhaps Dr. Seuss says it best… “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – The Places You’ll Go, Dr. Seuss

Books offer the opportunity for parents and caregivers to explore and discuss both familiar and unfamiliar words and ideas with the child who has vision loss. It is also a wonderful activity to share with siblings and peers. It may seem difficult at first to choose books that will be meaningful and of interest to the young child with vision loss. However, with some imagination and creativity there are many ways to add meaning to the young child who is unable to see the pictures. Where possible use real objects, sound effects and motions to add meaning to the story. The best way to add meaning to a story is to help the child experience in a hands-on way what the story is about. This will add to your child’s understanding and enjoyment of the story. Here are some book reviews along with activities which may be helpful as you explore books with your child.

Book Reviews

The Important Book

By Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrated by Leonard Wiesgard
A Trophy Picture Book, Harper Collins
Soft Cover Price: $6.99

This classic book has recently been republished since first appearing 50 years ago. This simple book will appeal to young readers as they explore what is important to know about everyday objects and experiences such as spoons, shoes, apples, the wind, rain, snow and so on. It would be fairly easy for parents and caregivers to find concrete examples of the objects and experiences mentioned on each page. The text is simple and descriptive.

“The important thing about an apple is that it is round. It is red. You bite it, and it is white inside, the juice splashes in your face, and it tastes like an apple, and it falls off a tree.” The pictures on each page vary in visual complexity; some pages are better than others for children with available vision. However, the opportunity to provide hands-on experiences and objects will assist every child to gain understanding of the concepts explored in this book. Words in clear Braille overlay may be easily added to this book.

Recipe Tie In: Baked Apples

After reading this book you may wish to try this simple recipe for baked apples. You may wish to enrich the reading experience by going on a shopping trip to purchase the ingredients. Consider having the ingredient list and recipe available in Braille or large print. It is good to model for your child how important literacy skills are in everyday activities.


  • McIntosh or other baking apples (It is especially wonderful if you have access to an actual apple tree with apples to pick)
  • Butter
  • Cinnamon
  • Brown sugar

The grown up should be the one to cut the apples in half. Show your child how two apple halves can come back together to form a whole apple again. Use a melon ball tool to scoop out the seeds. Here is a good time to discuss what seeds are and how plants grow from seeds.

Show your child how to prick holes in the outside skin of the apple with a fork. If your child is having a hard time managing this skill, try having the child’s hands “ride” on your hands as you work. In this way your child will feel your movements. Piercing the apple skins will prevent the apple skins from bursting open when the apples are baked.

Place the apples in a glass baking dish. Help your child to smear each apple top with a little butter, and then sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon on top. It is okay if this experience is messy; this is the best way for your child to learn. Keep a damp cloth near by and show your child how to wipe fingers clean if he or she is bothered by having butter on them.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Enjoy smelling the wonderful aroma as the apples are baked. Tasting the baked apples may be the best part!

Expand the Experience

Consider having a family apple picking and tasting experience. There are so many different kinds of apples available. Try Fuji, Cortland, and Granny Smith apples among many others. If you can, go to an apple orchard to pick them, or simply check out how many kinds of apples are available in the produce section at the grocery store with your child. Buy one of each. Cut each apple into several pieces and have a taste test. Discuss with your child the difference in colour, size, shape and taste of each kind of apple. What apple will be your child’s favourite?

Cinnamon Shapes

If your child enjoyed baking with cinnamon, then this easy play dough recipe will also appeal. Simply mix together one cup of smooth applesauce with one cup of fine cinnamon. Inexpensive cinnamon can often be found at dollar stores.

Mix together until the dough is workable. If the mix is too dry add a bit more applesauce, if too wet add a little more cinnamon. Once the dough is workable you can use cookie cutters to cut out star, heart or other small shapes. If your child has dif ficulties touching the play dough, keep a damp cloth near by so sticky fingers can be wiped when needed.

Poke holes in the shapes with a drinking straw so the shape can be hung with raffia or ribbon. The shapes can be air dried over a few days or baked at 300 degrees for approximately 10 minutes or until firm. The ornaments will smell wonderful when baking, but they are not edible! A cinnamon shape makes a wonderful gift for your child to share with important people in his or her life.

How To Speak Moo!

By: Deborah Fajerman
Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.
Soft Cover Price: $5.99.

In this lively rhyming book the author explores the language of cows, which is of course “Moo”. As we turn the pages we find that the “moos” can be very different depending on what the cow is doing. For example a cow on a trampoline produces “up and down” moos, a cow’s mooing into a funnel can sound funny, JELL-O moos are jiggly, and so on. It is fairly easy to add appropriate actions and objects to this story in order to add meaning and interest to a child who has severe vision loss. Items such as skateboards, funnels, JELL-O, tunnels, etc. can be obtained and used at the appropriate page of the book. There are so many rich experiences and concepts available within the covers of this book. And as with any book, the text may be added in clear braille overlay.

For children who have residual vision, the black and white cows may stand out well, although a few of the pages are fairly visually cluttered.

Expand the Experience

You may wish to expand on some of the subjects introduced in this book. A trip to the corner store to buy milk, or “moo juice,” can be fun. Be sure to include your child in the process of finding the milk in the cooler and paying for the purchase. Your child’s understanding of cows can be enhanced by a field trip to a dairy farm, agricultural fair, or other opportunity to learn about cows. All children with vision loss can benefit from supervised and safe opportunities to explore the concept of, “what is a cow?” Children who are learning to use vision aids may find it helpful to look at the cows with binoculars or other distance aids.

Recipe Tie-in: Jiggly Moo JELL-O

Are JELL-O Moos really jiggly? Help your child find out by making this simple recipe. As much as possible help your child to take part in this process. The first step may be in creating a Braille or large print copy of this recipe.

  • One 3 oz package any flavour of JELL-O
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • ½ cup hot water
  • ½ cup cold water
  1. Open the JELL-O package. Your child may be able to do so with just a little help from you. Perhaps you can “start” the corner of the box so your child will be able to continue the tear.
  2. Empty the contents into a medium size bowl. Allow your child to feel and taste the dry powder.
  3. Use a nesting type of measuring cup to measure the hot water. (Depending on the age and ability of the child this may be the part that the grown up should do.)
  4. Stir well until the powder is well dissolved. Help your child add the milk and cold water and stir well.
  5. Allow your child to taste and feel the milky liquid. Place in fridge until set. Enjoy the jiggle!

Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?

By: Dr. Seuss
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Date Published: 1996
isbn-13: 9780679882824
Price: $8.99

Here is a book that again discusses the importance of Moos! Mr. Brown Can Moo by Dr. Seuss is one of the board books that I like to introduce to children and families early on. This book is rich in rhyme and repetition and features a wide variety of interesting sounds. It is easy to add dramatic sound effects to this classic book.

It can be helpful to have several people on hand to enjoy this book together, as it allows for nice turn taking opportunities. Each person can make the sound the book calls for, either by mouth or by using the sound making toy. For children who are struggling to learn to communicate, this book is ideal for modeling the appropriate response.

Here is the list of items for the sound effects that can be added to the text. It is not necessary to have them all; what sounds you don’t have can be made verbally. Sound effects for this book include:

  • Moo – any noisy toy with a moo sound. I prefer the moo tins that you turn over to make the sound, but these can be hard to find.
  • Dibble Dopp or Rain – rain stick, musical shaker egg, or similar toy shaken in rhythm to the text. A simple shaker can be made by filling an empty plastic candy tube or cardboard chip tube with rice and sealing the lid.
  • Tick Tock – small clicker block from Fisher Price, or by mouth.
  • Pop Pop – child’s wooden music sticks knocked sharply together.
  • Cock a doodle doo – noisy puzzle featuring farm animals with the rooster picture. Inserting one block into the frame with the other will activate the sound. Or some small squeeze animal toys feature this sound.
  • Knock Knock – knock on wooden furniture or floor.
  • Klopp Klopp – use your feet to stamp the floor, or hands banging on the table.
  • Boom Boom or Thunder – use a Thunder Tube spring drum or a simple plastic megaphone to make verbal booms louder.
  • Splatt splatt or lightening – clatterpillar, which is a child’s musical instrument, or pop the bubbles on plastic wrap.
  • Whisper Whisper – a soft whisper from you.
  • Hoo Hoo – verbally, or stuffed sound owl.

It is especially fun to get to the last page, or “let’s review.” Then all the noises are repeated in order. Enjoy reading with your child. In doing so you will be adding a great deal to your child’s knowledge of the world, as well as setting the stage for educational and vocational success.

'You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be—
I had a mother who read to me.”
Strickland Gillilan

Happy Reading!