Increasing empathy for visually impaired students with a book {and a freebie!} | Mentoring in the Middle

Increasing empathy for visually impaired students with a book {and a freebie!}

Last year, a colleague and I received a grant to have all the students in 5th and 6th grades read the same two books.  We started with Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt, and now we're reading A Blind Guide to Stinkville by Beth Vrabel.

Blind Guide is a multi-layered story, the heart of which is found in Alice Confrey, a young girl with albinism.  I wasn't aware that people with albinism often have an eye condition called nystagmus, which causes their eyes to flutter up and down a lot, resulting in difficulty seeing.

To start off the book challenge, we asked a local organization, VisionCorps, which works with blind and visually impaired children and adults in our area, to visit our school.  They provided a safe place for our children explore the world of visual impairment and the tools people use to navigate the seeing world.

One of my students is visually impaired, although not from albinism.  His vision issues are quite similar to those of Alice's, however.  It was really beautiful to watch students gently ask to enter his world, so that through his explanations they could get a glimpse of what it felt like to see the world  like he does.

I created the study guide for A Blind Guide to Stinkville for my students to use as they read and discussed the book in small groups.  I'll be honest, I'm not a fan of "right there" kinds of questions, nor do I like to ask questions chapter by chapter.  The questions in the study guide require students to think more deeply about ideas in the book, using the text to support their responses.  For the most part, students are really enjoying the book!

....And now for the freebie!
Because I find my students talking about books so much, I decided to have them give book commercials this year, so that I wasn't the only person doing book talks.  I've finally gotten around to putting it into my TpT store.  Grab it and use it if you want!

Have a great rest of the week!


  1. Wow! I love the idea of having all of the students read the same books. What a great way to pull in a guest from the outside to really help students make a connection and learn about a serious subject in an authentic way. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This is wonderful! What a great way to encourage empathy!

  3. This gave me the feels! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Wow! This sounds wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing.

  5. I read Fish in a Tree outloud last year. Isn't it so amazing? What a great idea to incorporate these books into your classroom to bring awareness to these types of issues!!

  6. Love these ideas on creating empathy in children. Connecting literature and real life situations. It is so important and often forgotten! Great post!!

  7. Love this! Great connection to the real world differences and allow for awareness! This was a great post!

  8. great subject! A friend of mine has a son is going blind at 15. He is also autistic and so it is doubly hard. He currently spends most of his time reading, building computers, watching shows or video games.