Adapted books are texts that have been modified to make them more accessible for people with different abilities. Making books more physically accessible could mean using fluffers, which are foam stickers or Velcro squares added to the corners of stiff pages to make them easier to grab and turn. Any book can be adapted with these fluffers, but it’s important to make sure the books that are modified can also be independently read by patrons. Turning regular texts into adapted books will not only round out your library’s collection, but it can also be a great makerspace project!
There are several quality resources online for ready-made adapted books. The Paul V. Sherlock Center on Disabilities at Rhode Island College has a great database and is constantly adding new books, as well as taking submissions! The books are available as Powerpoint slides, so they could be shown on a big screen during a program, but are also downloadable as PDFs that can be printed, bound, and added to the library’s collection. Most books that have already been adapted are picture books, but there are quite a few for different age levels. Middle grade novels like Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary and the Al Capone books by Gennifer Choldenko have been adapted. There are also some higher level books like Beowulf, or A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens.
A great program would be teens assembling the pages of adapted books. To ensure they’ll last a long time, the pages could be laminated or kept in page protectors. If budget is a problem, then the printed pages inserted into a three-ring binder works just as well. Decide what level of adapted books would work best in your library. Do teens with disabilities want books they would read, or do they want to create adapted books for younger kids? Print off enough where each teen can assemble a book, and encourage them to study it as they compile it. Once they see how adapted books are made, they might want to make their own!
Teens can keep up with their classmates in school by reading the adapted versions of required reading. If library staff can’t find a copy already adapted online, make it a project! Summarize each page or chapter of a novel, and be sure to include all major details and important dialogue. Use clip art or symbols underneath each line to show a picture for each word. Free programs to do this include Picto-Selector and PictureSET. If this seems like something your library will embrace, however, it might be worth the investment to use online programs like LessonPix ($36/yr) or Boardmaker ($99-$199/yr), or Writing With Symbols software ($319). Read over the book when it’s completed to make sure the symbols match the written word and convey the correct meaning.
It’s not necessary to include a symbol under every word if your teens have higher reading levels. Sometimes just summarizing key points and spacing the text out so that it isn’t overwhelming on the page is enough to help reluctant teens read. If the book has art (like the Great Illustrated Classics), include the illustrations to help with context clues. Reading an adapted novel should be more similar to reading the actual novel more than to reading Cliffs Notes.
This program involves active learning, with “concrete and measurable changes for the teens participating” (The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action, 22-23). The learning outcomes for teens include: seeing how people with disabilities read and learn; being compassionate towards these peers; embracing others’ differences; and actively helping others better their lives.
Not only could this program count as a makerspace, but it could also serve as volunteer hours for teens, since they’re giving back to the library specifically and the community at large. Check out YALSA’s wiki on Teen Volunteering and Service Projects.