A tactile book, an undercover agent.
Tactile picture books are important for both visually impaired and sighted children.
For visually impaired children, they are a tool to explore the world with, and they aid the development of literacy. In their own environment, blind children are rarely confronted with written texts: outside, they see no posters, no advertisements. At home, they often don’t have any Braille texts, no understandable writings on their toys or other objects, and the books they are familiar with are completely smooth and the pictures they have are very hard to perceive.
Marion Ripley states that "Books with tactile illustrations can open up a world of new information, new concepts, and new vocabulary for a child with visual impairment. They encourage the development of tactile skills and provide the motivation to learn to read. They are also great fun."
Books with illustrations appeal to all children, since they present ideas and topics within their reach, different approaches, sometimes poetic, sometimes informative, and a dialogue between text and pictures which enhances the meaning of both elements. Books with tactile illustrations and Braille text is thus an excellent tool for integration. They allow the act of reading to be a shared experience with friends, siblings or parents. This is also about sharing a respectful, reciprocal relationship. These books bridge sighted, visually impaired and blind persons, and their ability to form early bonds between these worlds makes them priceless. The fact that they assign the same value to tactile esthetics and visual esthetics truly helps the promotion of differences, a crucial factor in the reciprocal enrichment of children.
Translated from L’intérêt de l’album tactillustré dans l’éveil cognitif et social du jeune enfant déficient visuel Anne-Lise Schwab et Dominique Vallat, HEP Vaud, 2010.
*Ripley Marion, 2007. Creating a Loans Collection of Books with Tactile Illustrations for Young Children with a Visual Impairment. Speech at the World Library and Information Congress, Durban.
Dominique Vallat, ispecialized teacher and therapist for visual rehabilitation for the visually impaired. She founded and managed Touche-à-Tout, a toy-library at the Centre Pédagogique pour élèves handicappés de la vue (CPHV) in Lausanne, Switzerland. Through special books and games, the center offers the possibility for sighted, visually impaired and blind children to read and play together.