CVI literacy, adapting books and text

* Guest blog post by Judy Endicott

When helping my grandson, River, who is almost nine, I know it is critical to use his CVI Range score (Roman-Lantzy), late Phase II, and information about his CVI characteristics as my guide to modifying his literacy materials. I always remind myself that what I can see and understand is different from what River “sees” and understands.

When River and I are together, I do my best to follow his lead so I can gain valuable insight into what he is attending to visually. I try to take advantage of what Dr. Reuven Feuerstein labeled “the concept of mediated learning.” This is when the “learning partner” (parent, teacher) intervenes in the child’s experience with the intent of teaching something. Dr. Roman-Lantzy refers to this as “joint attention.” A label I learned in my teaching days is “kidwatching,” and it is powerful. When River gives me verbal feedback about what he sees, and shares his understanding of symbols and images, then as a learning partner, I can hopefully make appropriate adjustments to materials and activities.

There are so many variables in any one literacy activity and I am not the main one doing the instruction. The materials I make for River are mostly for the classroom, but I am not there to observe and assess if they are meeting his needs and providing the right amount of support. Even with the best of ongoing home-school communication, there are no doubt snags along the way.

Below are a combination of iPad Google Slides, samples of modifications to school basal reader stories, and reformatted trade book pages. The iPad gives River the option to  zoom in, and adjust the size of images and text and reduce the complexity (Roman). Another advantage the iPad offers that paper does not, is backlighting. River, and so many other CVI learners, benefit from backlighting. Backlighting draws visual attention, and helps with visual fatigue.

Presently, River needs adaptations made for the complexity of the images and text. Word “crowding” is an issue with published materials and environmental print (complexity of array, Roman). He does not like finger pointing, and his visual battery for extended text passages is very short. Therefore I am always looking for ways to reduce complexity, limit unnecessary text and images, and stay true to the content being adapted. This presents a daunting task when the school reading book is an anthology of stories where the reading levels of the texts can vary greatly and the images can be quite complex.

There are many different iPad apps and websites that can be used to present text, images and activities to support CVI learners. Check out the CVI Teacher blog post by Ellen Mazel where she shares Matt Tietjen’s suggestions on iPad apps.

Thanks go to Maryanne Roberto for introducing me to Google Slides.  I will soon be using Bitsboard and other apps too.

Adapting Basal Readers

We have tried the following ways of adapting printed texts. When reading text, slant boards and book stands are consistently used to bring materials out of the lower visual field.

beginning basal reading book
beginning basal reading book

Here is a typical illustration and text from a beginning basal reading book. We can reliably predict that this illustration will make very little if any sense to a CVI learner.  Sometimes the best thing to do is to block it out completely.

Font size, kerning and spacing may or may not need to be adapted.

Occluders and use of preferred color when “bubbling” words can be used.




(For River, the color “bubbles” were not helpful.  The occluders were.)




Some stories have illustrations that are useful.

Increasing the font size, triple spacing between words (kerning), and double line spacing, the text was typed, printed and pasted on cards to use as shown. Font size and spacing adaptations will be unique for each CVI learner.


I have found the following sequence helpful to River:

  1. The entire story is read to him. (Looking or not looking is his choice).
  2. We identify the content of each illustration. I explain some, we talk about salient features of a few of the story items, and he asks questions about what he sees.
  3. Word skills, reading the text, and comprehension activities all follow in lesson chunks.

All of this is NOT in one lesson.  The “chunks” of literacy work are determined by River’s visual battery and factors that affect his concentration.

"partner reading," poetry
“partner reading,” poetry

“Partner reading” was a way of reading some of the stories and poems in the anthology.  The teacher read the text as printed, and River read the enlarged text. (One of the objectives of this lesson was an introduction to poetry.)





When the text was replaced within the basal, word skills, salient features and spelling words were put in Google Slides to accompany the story.


Changes to Primary Phonics

Primary Phonics and Edmark Reading Program have been mentioned in CVI literacy blogs as programs that have been used with CVI readers.

(I happen to have some copies of Primary Phonics Storybooks that I have used with River). I have had no experience with Edmark Reading Program.

Primary Phonics book
Primary Phonics book

For some, the text is large enough to be read with or without occluders, finger pointing, or masking of lines.

(Whenever possible we use all the physical items that relate to the story to build background experience prior to reading. Salient features need to be emphasized, 2D Google images examined, and plenty of physical activity with the items to help build meaningful connections to the story concepts.)

use of color
use of color

Color can be added to assist the reader. This character’s clothing and hair color was kept the same throughout the story.



use of color
use of color
clear (non-shiny) report cover sleeve
clear (non-shiny) report cover sleeve

If you cannot write on the book pages, you can put a clear (non-shiny) report cover sleeve over the text and write on it using a permanent marker.

(This is useful to do in any book when you want to draw attention to the salient features of something but you cannot write on the page.)


Following River’s  interests results in a wide range of literacy activities. We  find magazine pictures and write sentences for them, use environmental print, and search the environment for words and images that are interesting and meaningful to him.

magazines, environmental signs
magazines, environmental signs


math worksheets
math worksheets

Google Slides are also useful when making adaptations to math worksheets.  Most worksheet pages are crammed with information and organized in many different and difficult ways. Complexity is a huge issue with workbooks.

There is no one way to adapt materials for CVI learners. The best we can do is to share our ideas so we can learn from each other. Literacy opportunities are everywhere and a good reminder for all of us is to keep our literacy activities fun, short and meaningful for our CVI learners.

*  Guest blog post by former educator, Judy Endicott. Judy is a reading specialist who taught in regular and special education classrooms, and worked as a reading specialist at the elementary level. She is also a Level 1 certified Wilson Reading Program teacher. Judy is the grandparent of River, who was diagnosed with cortical visual impairment (CVI) at 11 months old.

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