“Children need to find images of themselves and their worlds, and also gain exposure to other cultures and experiences through the books that they read or have read to them,” write the authors of the lead article of a recent issue of the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB). The article, “Cultural Diversity in Children’s Braille Books,” by Monique A. Coleman and Judith Harrison, features an in-depth investigation into the racial identity of primary and secondary characters in children's braille books.

The authors begin by describing how the students that fill classrooms across the United States represent a diverse spectrum of races and ethnicities, yet their reading materials do not:

. . . [T]he underrepresentation of diverse cultures in the larger children's books market is a widely recognized, longstanding problem; the children's braille book catalogs analyzed in this study present an even more stark shortcoming in this area.

The authors present a tactile version of Rudine Sims Bishop’s “mirror, windows, and sliding glass doors” metaphor to illustrate how braille books that highlight multicultural characters can enrich the lives of children who are blind or have low vision.

They urge teachers of students with visual impairments who are teaching braille readers to avoid waiting for more books featuring diverse racial and ethnic groups to be published by the children's braille book industry and encourage them to “tap into the larger print children’s book market to build their own collection of homemade culturally diverse braille picture books” by adding braille overlays themselves. Teachers can visit websites like ColoursOfUs.com and DiverseBooks.org to discover children's books that they can braille for their students.

Read the article for free on the Sage Publishing website.

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