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Aiming for Access

June Behrmann

June Behrmann is a longtime special education teacher (pre-K to grade 6) who retired for about two seconds, and is now prospecting for accessible instructional resources. Follow June on Twitter @aimnoncat. Thank you to AIM-VA: Accessible Instructional Materials for sharing this blog with us.

14+ Accessible Holiday Book, Film Favorites Are Full of Fun For All to Enjoy

December 10, 2014

Bookshare, an AIM-VA partner in providing accessible books to students with print disabilities, recommends titles filled with humor as 2014 draws to a close. The following staff choices have witty and quirky holiday themes. Put serious books aside for a bit, Bookshare says. Make some time for smiles and joy.

Here's the link for the full Bookshare ho, ho, ho list. It includes books for older readers with descriptions to help adults make book selections. Here are the K-8 picks:

  • Honeyky Hanukkah by Woody Guthrie: A rollicking celebration as a boy and his dog invite friends and family to a holiday feast. (Grades PK-2)
  • A Piñata in a Pine Tree by Pat Mora: A delightful Latin-flavored take on the 12 days of Christmas. (Grades PK-2)
  • The Miracle Jar by Audrey Penn: Sophie’s mother is worried that their cooking oil won’t last through Hanukkah, while the children learn more about the miraculous story this holiday commemorates. (Grades 2-4)
  • Horrible Harry and the Holidaze by Suzy Kline: Everyone’s learning new things about holidays around the world, but Harry just can’t get into the holiday spirit. (Grades 3-5)
  • Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien: Every December, the children of the beloved author received a special letter containing wonderful stories from the North Pole. (Grades 3-6)
  • Box of Delights by John Masefield: Kay Harker is coming home for Christmas, but finds himself being watched by some shady characters. (Grades 4-7)
  • Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by Frank L. Baum: From the author of the Oz books, a highly imaginative set of tales about old Kris Kringle. (Grades 5-8)

For more accessible book choices, check out these options:

Learning Ally, also an AIM-VA partner, supports students with print disabilities and has built the largest known library of human-narrated books. Some selections come with VOICEtext. This format combines audio with highlighted text on the screen of a playback device. Readers (with memberships) follow along with the text as the highlighting moves in sync with the book narration. There are some 2,000 titles now available. This is the preferred learning format for some students and adults with print disabilities who like to hear the story via audio and follow visually using the supported text.

The Defined and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) Educators of students with identified disabilities qualify for this program funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The National Association for the Deaf administers the service with a mission to assure equal access to communication/learning for students who are blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind.

DCMP has compiled its 2014 accessible media for your winter celebrations. Two brand new titles are:

  1. Too Many Tamales

    Based on the book by Gary Soto. Maria was feeling very grown-up on Christmas Eve as she helped her mother prepare the tamales for Christmas dinner. When she slipped her mother's diamond ring onto her finger, she only meant to wear it for a minute. But suddenly, the ring was gone, and there were 24 tamales that just might contain the missing ring;

  2. The Magic School Bus Holiday Special

    It's the last day of school before the winter holidays, and Wanda plans to see the Nutcracker ballet. But during a trip to a recycling plant, her toy soldier accidentally gets recycled. Devastated, Wanda wishes for a world without recycling. Ms. Frizzle activates the bus's un-recycler, taking the class on a song-filled field trip.
    (Note: The Magic School Bus series is comprised of 51 award winning videos.)

Described and Captioned Media choices do more than entertain. They are culturally rich and have the potential to develop vocabulary and literacy. Check out the DCMP YouTube classic movie playlist. The videos there offer short, "accessible" previews and include:

Finally, check out the Audio Description Project, an initiative of the American Council for the Blind, for a listing of current described movies. Listen to a podcast describing the merits of this type of literacy support.


Students in the Commonwealth with print disabilitiies and individualized education programs are eligible for free versions of printed textbooks and trade books that they need to access the curriculum. There are 12 possible formats that aid struggling learners when books in print prove to be barriers. Some students require more than one format to suit particular learning situations. AIM-VA provides the resources with its partners, along with free teacher training. There are counterparts to AIM-VA in all other states. To get started, go to the AIM-VA homepage or contact a school administrator.


Thank you to AIM-VA: Accessible Instructional Materials for sharing this blog with our Reading Rockets audience.

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"Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks." — Dr. Seuss