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Partnership for Beautiful Print-Braille Children’s Books for “Inclusive Reading”

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Have you ever wondered how blind adults read with sighted children, or vice versa? One option for shared reading of children’s picture books is print-braille books.

Print-braille consists of a children’s picture book with every coinciding page being written in braille. The braille includes the text of the book and may also include a description of the illustrations.

To add to the availability of these books in public libraries, the federal government’s Social Development and Partnerships Program – Disability Component (SDPP-D) has enabled NNELS and the Vision Impaired Resource Network (VIRN) to work together to produce 15 copies of 15 English-language print-braille children’s books which have been distributed to libraries in every province and territory.  An additional 15 copies of 5 titles in French are currently in production. 

This photo shows Red Deer Public Library members Jillian Metchooyeah (left) who catalogued the collection, and Children's Services Coordinator Deb Isbister (right), holding some of the books made by VIRN. 

NNELS spoke with Doris Koop (photo below on the right), the Executive Director of VIRN, to hear her insights on the braille project and the impact it has had on VIRN and the community of people who are vision impaired.  Doris has been with VIRN for twelve years, and has been instrumental in shaping the organization’s growth and vision.  This story describes how VIRN’s team of sighted and vision impaired members are working together to produce esthetically beautiful and technically innovative braille books….works of literary art!   

Braille Children’s Books are Important

Doris wishes she had the opportunity to learn to read braille as a child, and would have loved to have been able to read stories to her children in braille.  Doris’ children are not vision impaired, so she had to approach reading to her children with diligence and creativity.  Doris would learn the book first, and then read the book with her children.  She would ask questions, such as, “What do you see?  Do you remember what that word is? Where’s the lady with the red pants?  What color is her hair?  Is she smiling?”. 

Doris learned how to make the reading experience positive for her and for her children, and the experience ignited a passion for ensuring that all children have the opportunity to become engaged in reading.  Both of Doris’ children are avid readers, and have gone on to achieve academic excellence. 

Doris believes the beautiful braille children’s books will enable all people to experience the pleasure of reading to and with children in a positive way.  Braille is a critical aid in literacy for readers who are vision impaired, and VIRN is proud to have contributed to the reading experience for many parents and children. 

VIRN’s Philosophy

VIRN’s philosophy is about opportunity and inclusiveness – ensuring people who are vision impaired are able to live life to its fullest, to gain positive and inclusive experiences, and to have equal opportunities within the community.  VIRN supports the individual needs of people with vision impairments by focusing on four building blocks: Peer Support, Public Education, Active Living, and Training.

This photo shows team members Deanna (left) and Tasia (right) checking the braille and print order.

Creativity and Teamwork

VIRN’s philosophy shines through the braille project.  Each sighted and vision impaired project team member has a critical role to play, as the creation of a braille book is complex and detailed work. Quality is of utmost importance and team members take pride in their work. The books are entered into text files on a computer, converted into braille using software, cut apart, and assembled into a final book.

As a special add-on, VIRN includes QR (Quick Response) codes on every page so that apps can read the braille for voiceover and/or text applications. QR codes have never been used for this purpose before, and demonstrates how focusing on patron needs leads to innovation and creativity.  The team has refined their process over time and has become highly efficient and organized. 

Every Team Member Matters

VIRN’s braille project team includes both sighted and vision impaired members.  Some are new to vision loss, and some have experienced vision impairment from birth or early childhood. Most of the vision impaired team members have a paid role on the project, which provides not only an income stream but the opportunity to work on a team, learn how to read braille, and feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in a job well done. 

Sighted volunteers play an important role in cutting the books for assembly and assisting with the aesthetic and physical characteristics of the final product.  Teamwork and partnership are essential:  every team member relies on the skills and cooperation of the others.

The photo on the left shows Glen, a volunteer VIRN team member, proofreading the braille books.

Feedback from library patrons using the books has been overwhelmingly positive…keep up the good work VIRN!


To find out how you can borrow these books from your library (because any Canadian can!) please send a note to or call 1-888-848-9250, option 5.