In her best duck voice my mother would read, “At the tone, the time will be one o'clock exactly. Quack,” and I, of course, would giggle knowing what came next.

The classic children’s book, Mary Alice: Operator Number 9, written by Jeffrey Allen and illustrated by James Marshall, follows the tale of Mary Alice and her unfortunate illness. When Mary Alice: Operator Number 9 catches a cold, my mother would change her tone to the best-congested duck voice she could muster. When Mary Alice is sent home sick, a cast of quirky animals – all with their own unique voices – attempts to fill in. From a hissing snake to silly dog, my mother did all the wacky voices. She also described the pictures making sure to point out the squinting armadillo that had a hard time seeing the clock, and Mary Alice’s bunny slippers. This was reading with my mother – a fully engaged experience. Something I thought all kids had.

So, when National Braille Press came to FableVision to develop the messaging behind its Great Expectations reading program, I was over the moon. We were being asked to help kids read. National Braille Press and Bridge Multimedia developed a suite of online activities that teach parents of visually impaired children how to read a picture in a book. Using a multi-sensory approach to reading, children learn to listen carefully to words, feelings, actions, scene, plots, and character development — elements that they would otherwise miss by not seeing the pictures.  

Starting with the first book Dragons Love Tacos, written by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri, the Great Expectations program encourages activities that go beyond the act of reading. The 10 tips to read aloud is a great place for all families to start to really experience the “whole story.” Additionally, resources are available for after the last page has been turned: create 3D dragons, throw a taco party, and – a FableVision favorite – sing an original song.

Where does FableVision fit into all of this? Following a FabLab (our signature day-long brainstorming session) the team developed the look-and-feel for the Great Expectations program. Lead Artist Renee Kurilla created an amazing watercolor image of a little girl and her dog soaring through the clouds on a book. This image influenced the website and informational postcard design.

The entire Great Expectations program was launched last week at National Braille Press’ annual gala in Boston. Seated the table with the NBP’s publisher Diane Croft, the FableVisionaries in attendance were able to see the entire Great Expectations branding package in action. All attendees were able to read postcard explaining the program as it had been translated into braille. Renee’s little girl was shown on the big screen to a packed audience – flying high with her puppy pal, introducing the world to Great Expectations.