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Tactile Book Advancement Group (TBAG )

Publishers Guidelines

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Information for book Publishers, Authors and Illustrators

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Introduction - Board Books - Picture Books - Topic Books - Braille - Help


Novelty books of all shapes and sizes are very popular and publishers are responding to demand by producing more and more books with something for young readers to touch, listen to, or smell.

All children like novelty books - but to children with little or no sight they are invaluable. Shapes and textures, smells and sound buttons on the page make all the difference for a child unable to see the printed pictures. But some novelty books are of more value than others to a young blind child.

Using the following simple guidelines along with your existing techniques you could add young visually-impaired children to your readership and produce books which can be enjoyed by everyone. By exploring some innovative new designs and techniques you could make a real impact on the variety of books available to blind and to sighted children and be sure of some well-deserved publicity.

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Board Books

Most novelty books come in this format, with shaped pages, added textures, smells or sound buttons.

  • Children exploring pictures by touch like the textures to be as varied as possible, including rough and hard as well as soft and fluffy.
  • The textured area will make much more sense to a blind child if it matches the shape of the item pictured - or a significant part of it. If you can’t make the whole chick shape fluffy, give him a fluffy wing. This will be easier to explain than a fluffy lozenge shape on his back. This also applies to shaped pages, cutouts, etc.
  • If five balls are mentioned make all five tactile rather than, say, three of them. (A good example is “Traffic Jamboree” by Sue Nicholson and Christian Fox.)
  • A blind (or sighted) child will find it much easier to find and count all the items on the page of a counting book if they are presented in some kind of line. (“Ten Little Ladybirds” by Melanie Gerth and Laura Huliska-Beith is a fine example and has been very popular with visually-impaired children.)

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Picture Books

Some novelty picture books for slightly older children have been published using flocking, raised glittery areas or raised lines (e.g. “The Very Busy Spider” by Eric Carle - still in print after twenty years).

  • Raised illustrations need to be very simple. It is not easy to decipher pictures by touch! Do not try to raise every aspect of the picture. Choose two or three significant aspects of the illustration and make them textured.
  • Raised areas (with definite edges) are easier to understand than raised outlines.
  • Follow meaningful shapes when using raised lines and textured areas, e.g. raise the whole horse and all his four legs.
  • Two or three very different textures to a page would be ideal.
  • Make the lines and textures as raised as possible.
  • Separate the different textures by at least 2mm to stop them blending in together.
  • Avoid having one textured item partly obscuring another.

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Topic Books

Most novelty books are based on stories. Visually-impaired children would appreciate a tactile element in simple topic books and this multi-sensory approach would also enhance the learning of young sighted children.

All the above guidelines apply equally to fiction and non-fiction books.

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The Question of Braille

For a child who is learning braille, braille text may be added by the child’s school or by a library for the blind after the book has been published. The text may be added in Moon for children learning this alternative to braille. Other children may have the text read aloud to them.

However, if a publisher were able to add braille text to a book at the outset, this would make it an obvious purchase for all young braille readers (and braille-reading parents and grandparents). It would also be attractive to librarians keen to have some examples of braille in their mainstream libraries.

All print readers, whether visually-impaired or not, will benefit from a clear font in large print on a pale, uncluttered background (see RNIB leaflet “Clearly a better read” available from RNIB customer services 0845 702 3153).

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We Can Help

These guidelines have been compiled by members of the Tactile Book Advancement Group (TBAG). TBAG members are happy to advise on copy at any stage of design and production. Please contact us

TBAG is working to improve the quality and quantity of tactile resources available for the UK’s 16,000+ blind and partially-sighted children aged 11 and under. TBAG includes representatives from Royal National Institute of the Blind, RNIB National Centre for Tactile Diagrams, ClearVision, National Blind Children’s Society, Living Paintings Trust, parents and professionals working with blind and partially sighted children.

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