Creating Interactive Sensory Books Using Objects

By: MaryAnn Demchak

Recently literacy has been stressed for all children , even those with the most significant disabilities, and so it is important to consider strategies for involving children who are not interested in traditional books. For some children, severity and type of disabilities might interfere with their abilities to access or understand printed words, Braille, line drawings, photos, and other abstract or 2-dimensional representations. Some individuals might need 3-dimensional objects / symbols with which they can interact; objects might also be the type of symbol that they understand. Some children might benefit from initial books that center around objects that provide sensory feedback. That is, the objects used in such books might need to provide specific auditory, visual, tactile, and /or vibratory feedback that is of interest to the child. Using such books might assist these children in becoming interested in literacy materials and engaging in interactive literacy activities.

This tip sheet shows samples of homemade (email MaryAnn Demchak for a PDF with images), interactive, sensory-based object books that have been successfully used with various children with significant disabilities. For each of these books the pages were made from black foam board that can be purchased at office supply stores, discount department stores, and craft supply stores. The objects comprising the book are attached to the pages with Velcro so that (1) the objects can be removed for interactions with the child while reading the book and (2) objects can be easily changed as the child's interests change and/or to change the focus of the book. It is important to remember that the books are based on an individual child's interests. Printed words and Braille can be included for exposure and experience.

It is important to remember that these sensory-based object books are intended to be used for interactive or shared reading with the children. Children should be encouraged to participate actively by turning pages and manipulating the objects. The reading partner should follow the child's lead. The idea is to get the child interested and then build upon their interests moving to theme-based object books (see prior tip sheets on object books and shared reading).

Literacy Bubbles can give visual, tactile, and activities olfactory feedback (if scented). are a great opportunity for communication and these books can provide a basis for interactions, turn-taking, etc.