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Tactile Book Advancement Group (TBAG )

Making Books

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Photo-montage of characters

information: topics and themes: materials

Information about how to make tactile books

Making tactile books for children is not as challenging as you may think, and to make it even easier we have collected lots of information and resources to help you in your task

Useful tips from judges of tactile book competitions are available to help you plan your book

Makers of some of the prizewinning books in 2008 competition tell how they made their books - look here

book cover
Telling Stories Through Touch
- a downloadable booklet (PDF format) that gives information on tactile book design.

This 17 page booklet is designed as an introduction for people new to tactile book design, but will also be useful to reinforce the key principles to those who are more experienced.

Making a Fabric Book (Word 48KB) - downloadable guidelines from ClearVision on sewing a tactile book

APH Educational Research The Guide to Designing Tactile Illustrations for Children’s Books by Suzette Wright is available in multiple file formats (HTML, Print PDF or Braille brf files). The 35-page, illustrated guide offers a wealth of information to everyone embarking on making a tactile book.

Tactile picture books for blind and visually impaired children
Guidelines by Beatrice Christensen Sköld Annica Norberg - a downloadable booklet (PDF format) that gives information on tactile book design. From IFLA website.

How to make tactile pictures understandable to the blind reader - an article by Yvonne Eriksson.
From IFLA website.

Publishers, Authors and Illustrators - information for industry professionals on how very small changes in the design and production can make the world of difference to blind and partially sighted children.

Guidelines for the design, production and presentation of vacuum formed tactile images by Ann Gardiner and Chris Perkins (written for maps but equally useful for any tactile image)

information: topics and themes: materials

Topics and Themes

The Tactile Book Advancement Group is hoping to gather together some simple instructions for making specific tactile books and these will appear on this website soon.  If you have made a successful tactile book perhaps you could share your ideas with us?  Please contact If you prefer to design a tactile book from scratch, here are some suggestions to help you decide on a theme for your tactile book.

What have I got already?

In many ways the easiest way to design a tactile book is to gather up lots of interesting bits and pieces and then see what ideas spring to mind.  Pound shops are a great source of tactile bits and pieces - a plastic Christmas wreath when dismantled can provide lots of leaves, berries and spruce twigs; bubble wrap, clear gift bags for toiletries and nets for satsumas can all play a part.  Find an item which has an interesting texture or shape.  Could it be sewn or glued onto a page?  Could it be part of a counting book? Or a book of opposites?  Or a book of shapes?  Or does it suggest a simple story?  Here are a few examples of how an object can be a starting point for a book:

  • A square raffia drinks coaster could be the square in a book of shapes, along with something rectangular, something round and something triangular.  Or it could be the odd one out on a page with three round coasters. Or it could represent the word ‘rough’ with something smooth on the facing page in a book of opposites. Or it could be the house of straw in The Three Little Pigs.
  • A large plastic spider could represent the number eight in a counting book (with its eight legs) or it could star in a book about camping: ‘I lifted the blanket and look what I found!’ With a small plastic spider it could be part of a book contrasting large and small buttons, spiders, bells, wheels, etc. Little Miss Muffet could be retold with just three illustrations: a rag doll for Miss Muffet, a spoon for her to eat with and the big spider at the end to frighten her away.
  • A key could be the hard item in a book of opposites, facing something soft.  A number of keys could be used in a counting book.  A book called Find the Key could feature someone looking everywhere for his/her key, lifting things up and finding a variety of interesting bits and pieces: ‘That’s not my key!’
  • A magnet could be attached to a cord on the first page of a book.  The second, third and fourth pages could each have three or four items attached so that the child could try each with the magnet to see if it would be attracted. A book like this won a tactile book competition held by West Yorkshire Federation of Women’s Institutes.

What topics are appropriate?

The following have been suggested as appropriate topics for tactile books - but you may well have ideas of your own.

  • Nursery rhymes, traditional verses, songs, etc. – e.g. Baa Baa Black Sheep, One Two, Buckle My Shoe, Froggy Went a’Courting.
  • Traditional stories, e.g. Little Red Riding Hood, an Aesop’s fable or folk tales from any culture.
  • Early Learning, e.g. Numbers and Counting, Opposites, Sizes, Shapes, or a single letter of the alphabet. A list of items which could be included in alphabet books appears at the end of this section.
  • Everyday Life, e.g. My Day, Getting Dressed, or A Trip to the Park.
  • New Stories or Rhymes, based on your own original ideas. These do not have to be sophisticated or lengthy stories - in fact the simpler the better!

Marion Ripley at ClearVision is building up a collection of original storylines which can be used as the basis for tactile books made to your own design.  Contact to request, or to contribute, stories.

The following ideas have been suggested for tactile books for older children and teenagers with learning difficulties.  Any further suggestions would be welcomed:

  • Cooking (‘Let’s Make a Curry’ with little bags of spices and a bag of rice); clothes; shopping; sport; hairstyles; simple riddles; going to a football match; parts of a boat; monsters; cars; camping; horse-riding.

Adapting an existing book - Which one shall I choose?

This is much harder than making a book from scratch.  There is a real danger of being over-influenced by the print illustrations and producing tactile illustrations which are much too ‘busy’ and complicated. And some books do not have any very obvious tactile elements.  People who need to make a tactile version of a specific picture book, for example for a blind child in a mainstream class, have a real challenge on their hands.

If you have the luxury of choosing a book to adapt, look for one which includes a number of objects in the story.  Read each page of the text and try to ignore the pictures.  For each page, think of a simple tactile image appropriate to the text.  ‘Piglet picked up a leaf’ is quite easy to illustrate with just a leaf, for example, or with a simple piglet shape with four limbs and a curly tail + a leaf. ‘The children ran off down the street, singing and shouting’ is much more difficult.

The options are to stick objects, textures or shapes into the printed book, or to make a completely separate tactile book.  Whichever you choose you will need to completely rethink the illustrations.

Marion Ripley


Ideas for Different Letters of the Alphabet

When children are first learning to read it is important that they learn about letters and the sounds that letters make.  They need to listen carefully to the way in which words start and notice similarities and differences.  This is why alphabet books are always useful at home and at school.

To avoid overloading the young tactile reader it is a good idea to make simple alphabet books concentrating on just one letter.  Use real objects where possible, or miniature versions (a doll for a person). The starting point is a collection of objects and textures which are safe, robust and relatively flat, which can be sewn or stuck straight into a book.  Toy shops and joke shops are a good source of small items, body parts, etc. Fake leaves and flowers can often be found at pound shops, and pet shops sell a variety of plastic foliage.

Try to ensure that your objects feel very different to each other.  Aim for a variety of materials - fabric, metal, wood, plastic, etc. Interactive items are always popular:  a scarf which can be tied, a flap to lift, or a wheel to turn.  Five or six illustrations is quite enough.

Some letters of the alphabet are difficult to illustrate and some are impossible!  When you have chosen a letter make sure that all the items chosen as illustrations start with the same sound; do not put a cat and a cherry in the same book, or a key and a knot!

Here are some suggestions:

A         ambulance, anchor, animal, ant, apple, arrow

B         badge, badger, bag, ball, bandage, basket, bee, beard, beetle, bell, belt, bird, biscuit, blanket, book, bracelet, brooch, brush.

C         cape, camel, carpet, cat, caterpillar, clothes, collar, comb, cow, crab, cross, crown, curtain, cupboard.

CH      chain, cherry, chicken, chips, child, chestnut, chocolate.

D         daisy, dinosaur, dish, dog, doll, door, duck, duvet.

F          face, fairy, fan, feather, fence, finger, fish, five, flower, flag, fly, fork, four, fur.

G         gap, gate, girl, glasses, glove, goldfish, gorilla, grapes, grass

H         hair, half, handbag, hat, head, heart, hedgehog, hole, holly, hood, hook, house.

K         kangaroo, kennel, ketchup (sachet), key, king, kite.

L          lace, laces, ladder, ladybird, lamb, lavender, leaf, leather, leg, lemon, lid, lion, lips, lizard, loop, lump.

M         magnet, man, mane, mat, medal, mermaid, microphone, mint, mitten, monkey, mouse, moustache, mouth, mushroom.

N         nail, necklace, nest, net, nine, nose.

P         packet, paintbrush, pants, parrot, peg, pencil, perfume, pillow, plant, plaster, plastic, plate, puppet, purse.

R         rabbit, rattle, reindeer, ribbon, ring, rocket, robot, rope, rubber, ring.

S         sack, sausage, seven, six, snail, sock, spice, sponge, star, stick.

SH      shapes, shark, sheep, sheet, shell, shield, shoe, shorts.

T          tadpole, tail, tambourine, teddy, teeth, telephone, ten, tent, tie, tongue, toothbrush, tortoise, towel, twig, two.

W        wand, web, weeds, wheel, whiskers, wig, window, wings, wood, wool, worm.

Marion Ripley and Amy Palmer

information: topics and themes: materials

Materials for making books

Illustrated examples of materials for areas, lines, individual items and miscellaneous oddments that might be useful when making tactile books.

On-line sources of materials (these websites have been selected to show examples of art and craft related internet resources, and should not be read as any type of endorsement whatsoever)


You can find more information via our links page

Contact us with your ideas and any more sources of materials that you know about.

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Welcome : Prizewinning tactile books : Publishers guidelines : Making books : Buying Books :
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