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Frequently Asked Questions

APH/DPIL Partnership and What It Provides

Bradley Burkett (dad), Dolly Parton, APH’s Suzette Wright and Gary Mudd (with Denver), and Cameron Burkett.

What is the American Printing House for the Blind/Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Partnership, and how does it work?

APH will be putting its long years of experience in producing books in accessible formats — braille and recorded — to ensure that ALL of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library members are able to share and enjoy the books they receive from the DPIL. Each month, APH will record and post audio files of that month’s book selections to the APH/DPIL Partnership website, which is a part of APH’s website. This gives DPIL members who are unable to read print due to a visual impairment or physical disability a way to download and listen to the books. Other members of the National Library Service (NLS), a program for individuals unable to read print, can also access the audio book files. By the end of each year, all of the current year’s DPIL books — about 75 books — will be available at the Partnership website.

Is special equipment needed to listen to the audio book files from the American Printing House for the Blind/Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library?

Yes. The DPIL digital audio book files available at the APH website can only be played using free playback equipment loaned to eligible individuals through the National Library Service Talking Book program. A family will first need to register their child with NLS and receive an NLS digital playback device. Then they are set to visit the APH/DPIL website and download the encrypted DPIL audio book files. An additional benefit is that by registering their child with the NLS service, a wide range of NLS braille books, audio books, and magazines will be available for free loan to their child.

When will the APH/DPIL Partners Print/Braille Books be available and who is eligible to receive them?

Enrollment in the Partners Print/Braille Book Program is now open! Enrollment began in August of 2012.

By enrolling in the Program, a child is able receive five free print/braille books each year until reaching his/her 6th birthday. Every year, APH selects five titles from the current year’s DPIL booklist—those most appropriate for a child with a visual impairment. Books are mailed directly to the child’s family.

To be eligible for the Partners Print/Braille Book program, a child must:

Applications for the Program are accepted on a first come/first serve basis. A maximum of 200 children will be able to participate in 2012. We are monitoring the number of families who apply and will seek to expand the number we as we and our partners, The Dollywood Foundation and Penguin Group USA, are able to do so.

Apply for the Partners Print/Braille Book Program!

What is a print/braille book?

Print/braille books can be created in different ways. The Partners Program print/braille books feature braille text on clear labels, applied directly to the print copy of the book. This allows a sighted parent to read aloud from the print text, while the young blind child feels the braille. Young children may not yet read the braille, but they gain important exposure to braille and opportunities to practice the hand movements for reading in braille. Meanwhile, children with typical vision can also share the book, see the print text, and view the book’s pictures. So everyone gets to enjoy the book together! Another important audience is the parent who reads braille. They will be able to read aloud to their sighted child, who can see the print and the pictures.

Reading with young children is vital to early literacy.

Reading with young children is important to early literacy.


Are there other sources for print/braille books?

Yes, other sources exist, but the number and variety of books available in print/braille is very limited. For that reason, books provided through our Partners Print/Braille Book Program are an important contribution to the literacy of young children who will read braille. To help parents and teachers find other books in print/braille formats, follow the link at the Partnership website to APH’s Louis Database of Accessible Materials. Anyone can search the Louis database to discover which braille producers, including APH, offer a particular book in braille. The National Library Service, for example, may have a braille copy of a title available for free loan. Other organizations, such as Seedlings, National Braille Press, or the Braille Institute may have a particular book in braille for loan or purchase. You’ll find links to these and other braille producers at the Partnership webpage.

It is also important to point out that APH will not choose to braille a DPIL book that is already available from another source, such as NLS. The goal is to expand the variety of print/braille books for children, not duplicate books that have already been provided in braille.

What is the importance of making books accessible to children who are not able to view and read print?

We all know the power of a good book and recognize that reading aloud with a young child, starting from birth, is the surest way to help them toward a love of reading. Taking the time to sit down with your child to read aloud and share a conversation about a book builds many positive things — skills the child will need for reading, as well as closer family ties!

We also know that having books in the home, ones that are there to stay, is important to learning to read. Almost every child has books that are favorites — the ones they want to hear over and over again. Many children memorize the words, and pretend to read the book themselves. Next, they may actually begin to recognize and read some of those words, because they’ve seen and heard them so many times. This cannot happen when a favorite book has to go back to the library. This is part of why the DPIL program was created. To give children books they own, in their own home, ready to be read and shared as often as possible.

We know having books in the home and reading aloud frequently is important for a child who can see, but it is even more important for a child who may one day be a braille reader. Children who are blind and visually impaired have very few things in their world that show them what braille is. Sighted children see signs, the print on the cereal box, books and magazines, recipes—print is everywhere they turn. A blind child doesn’t have that advantage. Sighted children can watch others read, but a blind child may not know when others around him are reading, writing, or using print.

This makes it extra-important for blind children to have their own books in braille, to sit with an adult, listen to the book, and talk about the story—to discover the purpose of braille. They also need the chance to touch and examine the braille, sharpening their sense of touch and practicing the hand movements needed for reading braille. Yet there are few braille books for a young child to choose from, and they are usually expensive for families to buy. Print/braille books are even more costly and difficult to find. This imbalance won’t be solved by the APH/DPIL Partnership, but it will be improved, and may offer a model for others.

APH/DPIL will offer both audio and print/braille books.

How did the APH/DPIL Partnership come about?

A parent, a teacher, and staff at APH and DPIL staff all played a role. In Tennessee, the DPIL program reaches every child, thanks to the Governor’s Books from Birth initiative. A Tennessee parent who was blind was receiving DPIL books and wanted to be able to share them with her child. She spoke with a teacher at the Tennessee School for the Blind, who contacted APH about the DPIL program and the desire for both blind children and parents to have access to the books.

Then fate took a turn. Suzette Wright, APH Emergent Literacy Project Leader, and David Dotson, Dollywood Foundation President, happened to be at the same reading conference. They spoke about the emails APH had just received from the Tennessee School. As they explored how much APH and the DPIL missions had in common, they realized there was something the two organizations could build as partners. DPIL engaged in conversations with their collaborator, Penguin Group USA, who also gave the APH/DPIL Partnership their approval and support.

When will the APH/DPIL audio book files be available to download?

The audio books are available now! Each month’s Imagination Library books will be sent to APH for recording, then posted online at the APH/DPIL Partnership website — one month at a time. Once the Partnership has been operating for a full year, there will be a full year’s set of APH/DPIL audio book files at the website. As books in the DPIL program change, older titles will removed and replaced with new titles.

Video: Dolly Parton & David Dotson present APH’s Gary Mudd


Download this video.

What is APH’s mission and what sorts of things does APH do?

The American Printing House for the Blind promotes independence of blind and visually impaired persons by providing specialized materials, products, and services needed for education and life. APH’s products are useful to infants, preschoolers, elementary and high school students, and adults. APH manufactures textbooks, magazines, recreational books in braille, large print, recorded, and digital formats. APH also manufactures print/braille books and tactile books (books with “touchable” illustrations), for young children. These highly specialized books offer print/braille text as well as pictures that are visual but that can also be explored by touch — using textures, molded and raised shapes and actual objects. APH offers hundreds of educational, recreational, and daily living products.

With over 300 employees, the American Printing House for the Blind is the world’s largest company devoted to researching, developing, and manufacturing products for people who are blind and visually impaired. Founded in 1858, it is also the oldest organization of its kind in the United States. Under the 1879 federal Act to Promote the Education of the Blind, APH is the official supplier of educational materials for visually impaired students in the U.S. who are working at less than college level.

APH’s fully-accessible website (www.aph.org) features information about APH products and services, online ordering of products, and free information on a wide variety of blindness-related topics. One popular feature of the site is the Louis Database of Accessible Materials, a free tool to help locate accessible books available from organizations across the U.S. With the exception of magazine subscriptions, APH products may be purchased by anyone.

What is the mission of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and what does the DPIL do?

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is an international effort to inspire a love of reading and a love of books. Dolly’s foundation partners with local sponsors in 1,300 communities in 3 countries to provide a quality, age appropriate book each and every month to each preschool child enrolled in the program.

Local sponsors such as United Way, Rotary, Kiwanis, and school systems decide to bring the program to their community by agreeing to fund the cost of the books and postage. The Dollywood Foundation manages the system at no cost to the sponsors or the families. The Foundation negotiates the cost of the books, manages the database, and oversees the process to prepare the books for mailing. It is a unique effort that has now mailed 40,000,000 books to preschool children. If you would like to find out more information about how to bring the program to your community, please visit imaginationlibrary.com or the offical Facebook page. Together we can inspire all children to Dream More, Learn More, Care More and Be More.

Yes & Yes! This program is made possible through the generous support of donors who believe all children deserve an opportunity to learn, read, and enjoy life. The American Printing House for the Blind is a registered 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization — all donations are tax-deductible. Your gift will help us reach out to young blind children across the US in ways that benefit everyone.

What costs are associated with the Program?

Braille books and even more so, print/braille books, are usually quite expensive to produce: there is the cost of the print book, the cost of translating the text into braille, and the cost of producing the braille. So a print braille book costs much more to produce than a typical print children’s book. We are fortunate the Dollywood Foundation shares their quantity purchasing power and their special relationship with Penguin Group USA to purchase the print books at reduced prices. However, the costs associated with the program are still quite high and APH relies heavily on contributions to cover the additional costs associated with implementing the program. Donate Now if you are inspired to contribute to this very special program.

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