Adapting Books for Physical Access

Books that are loved by kids sometimes get loved hard. One of my favorite keepsakes from my girls’ infancy are picture books they asked to have read over and over, and that they themselves devoured on their own. I use the word “devoured” quite deliberately; my oldest daughter ate all the corners off her favorite Kittens are Like That. While it makes this memento especially dear to my heart, we can’t have whole libraries consumed by little teeth.
When kids “read” on their own, their books sometimes need protection from exuberant little hands or lips. And sometimes books need to accommodate fine motor issues to be more accessible. We are going to cover these issues today.
Increase durability. The suggestions below work well to ward off accidental bumps and bruises to books caused by difficulties grading movement, myoclonic jerks, yanking books away from others, forgetting how to handle books carefully, and drooling. I don’t know anything that can make a book stand up to deliberate destruction. PLEASE leave a comment if you have an idea for that!
·        Board books. The titles printed on cardboard is ever-increasing, so check to see if the one you want is available. Classic favorites, such as Goodnight Moon and The Hungry Caterpillar, are easy to find. Longer selections from authors such as Marc Brown (Aurthor's New Puppy and D.W. Thinks Big) can be found if you search.

·       Laminate pages. The hardest part of this is sacrificing the binding of the commercial book, tearing it apart to laminate the pages. Does that violate every sense of propriety for you the way it does me? After each page is laminated, lay the first page against the second and use wide clear strapping tape to secure them together. Turn the second page and lay the third against it, taping where the pages meet. Continue until all pages are taped. Place the covers face down, leaving a slight gap between them, and tape. Now lay the taped pages inside the covers and tape at the binding. Use clear contact paper to cover the outside of the book and strengthen the binding.

If you look hard at the end of the arrow, you will see the edge of the strapping tape.
The folded-over edges of the clear Contact paper covering are also visible.

     Some books arrive with staples at the spine, and these are even easier to take apart. Remove the staples and laminate each two-page spread. You can re-staple them to the cover if you have access to a book-maker’s stapler. Or, try stitching down the spine with dental floss and an upholstery needle in long 1/2" - 1" stitches. Go from bottom to top, and then trace back down through the holes you made previously. Tie off and cover over the stitching on each side with clear strapping tape.
These stitches are about 1/2" long and have been covered over
with strapping tape for durability.

  • Use page protectors. Cut apart books (or make your own) and insert them into plastic page protectors. For heavy droolers or fingers that seek to destroy, seal the open end with clear strapping tape.

Facilitate page turning.
  • Page fluffers. These separate the pages to make them easier for fingers to slip between. Some even allow pages to turn with a gross swipe. If you have adapted story books with Velcro to hold symbols, the Velcro may be enough to spread the pages. There are many lightweight objects that can be used to fluff pages apart, but my favorites are the temporary ones taught by Karen Erickson. These can even be used in library books until they must be returned. 

            You’ll need:
            Oaktag (or manila file folder), cut in 1 1/2” strips
            Small paper clips, a whole handful
            Self-adhesive foam weather-stripping
            Slide paperclips, small loop on top, across the length of oaktag. Space the clips every inch. Remove the backing from the weather-stripping and stick it across the small loops of the paper clips, aligning the edge of the weather-stripping with the edge of the oaktag strip. Cut apart, centering one paperclip in each fluffer.To use, slide the book page between the long loop of the paperclip and the oaktag, offsetting each fluffer from the one before it.   
A page fluffer attached to the edge of a book page.
(My apologies for the sideways photo...
irritating software glitch!)

Page turner. These are “tabs” that stick out from stiffened pages that may be easier for hands to use. You can use popsicle sticks held with clear packing tape or daily contact lens cases glued to the edges of board book pages.

Next week we’ll talk about computer-adapted books for kids who cannot manipulate physical copies of their stories or need additional auditory input. I hope you are looking forward to it as much as I am!
* * * * * * * * * * *

You might also like:
Adapting Picture Books for Lap Reading


Anonymous said...

I have also used binder clips to help with page turning. You put the clip on the page and keep the metal pieces pointing outside of the book. They then use these to turn the page. It works great with my students with Down syndrome.

Rose-Marie said...

That's a great tip, Anonymous! I especially like it because it is removable, meaning it can be used with library books. How quick to install, too! Thanks for sharing.