Compiling Braille Picture Books for Visually-Impaired Children

April 29, 2015
Editor: Amanda Wu

Four female librarians spent half a year compiling 50 picture books into Braille to enable visually-impaired children to "see" illustrations and experience the charm of reading with pictures. The 50 picture books are the first such batch in China.

"As we work in the reading room for visually-impaired people, we find most of the books the children read just contain Braille words with few pictures," said Xu Yaoyao, one of the four librarians from southwest China's Chongqing Library.

In March 2014, a mother took her child to read at the reading room. When the child read a book about plants, he asked his mother, "What color is the rose?" The mother answered, "It's red."

Witnessing the scene, Xu had tears in her eyes. Ordinary children could see the colors in their books clearly at a glance, whilst the simple thing was out of reach for the visually-impaired children. As a result, Xu came up with the idea of translating a selection of picture books into Braille.

Xu said Braille picture books required using vivid language to describe the pictures in detail so as to stimulate visually-impaired children's imagination to conceive mental images. To this end, the four librarians often discussed for several hours on how to describe a picture as vividly as possible.

The new picture books required a good knowledge of Braille. However, the system was just like a foreign language to the four librarians.

In an effort to overcome the language barrier, they first translated all of the Chinese characters into Braille via software and then printed it out.

Next, the most time-consuming part was to proofread the printed Braille character by character, looking each one up in the dictionary. "It took about an hour to complete the proofreading of one sentence of 20 Braille characters," said Xu.

"Having looked at the Braille for so long, my eyes were so tired they went out of focus for a long time when I tried to look at other things," said another librarian Ye Jing.

For example, the short story titled "Reunion" — which originally contained 1,192 characters totaling more than 7,000 Braille dots — added up to more than 10,000 Braille dots when the captions they had transcribed were added to. As a matter of fact, it took them half a month to translate the Braille picture book.

After proofreading the Braille characters, the four librarians needed to scan them into a computer and print them out via a special Braille printer. Then, they cut out and pasted the characters next to actual pictures from the original book. Finally, a Braille picture book came into being.

"Making such a book is actually quite expensive," said Xu. "For example, the 39-page 'Reunion' cost about 780 yuan (U.S. $126). Luckily, when the library learned about the thing, the library offered to pay all expenses."

Since last summer, the four librarians have completed the making of 50 picture books in Braille. "Now, all these picture books are available at our reading room and visually-impaired children are welcome to borrow and read them," said Xu.

"We have another wish," she added. "We plan to complete another 50 books to meet the reading needs of more visually-impaired children."

"We also welcome volunteers who know Braille to join us," said Xu.

(Source: Chongqing Morning Post/Translated and edited by Women of China)

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