Creating Accessible Books Using Pages

Emerging readers should have access to fun digital books - just like their peers! The books can be read aloud to the student, the student can listen to the book using VoiceOver, or the student can read the book using a refreshable braille display (with or without VoiceOver announcing the text). For emerging readers, the image description or an auditory clip can provide hints - just like the images provide hints to students with vision - about the text on the page. Emerging readers love books with repetitive or predictable phrases. While there are several great book creating apps that teachers and families are using to create books, these books are often challenging to navigate with a screen reader. (See Reading Books Created with Book Creator App Using an iPad and RBD post) The iBooks Author application for Mac computers used to be the most robust book creating app; iBooks Author was the only application that enabled educators to embed fully accessible multiple choice questions. However, iBooks Author has been discontinued. Replacing the iBooks Author app, the Pages app has evolved and now has book templates. Pages is the free Apple application available for iOS devices and Mac computers. 

After trying several of the book templates available in Pages, the template - Landscape Book  "basic" - creates books that are easily navigated with VoiceOver. (Note: The template for the Portrait Book "Basic Photo" is NOT easily navigated with VoiceOver!) Unfortunately, there is not a way to embed accessible questions into the books created in the Pages app.

Let's create an emerging reader book using the nursery rhyme, "Five Little Ducks". This classic nursery rhyme/song is not copyrighted.

Steps for Creating an Accessible Book Using the Pages App

Personally, I prefer to create my books on my Mac, as it is easier for me to create the desired images; however, the same steps apply for creating books in the Pages app on the iPad. In this post, we will create the Five Little Ducks book.

Choose your text and images 

Prior to creating your book, choose your text and images.

Text: I did an internet search for "Five Little Ducks lyrics", made a copy and saved it on my desktop.


  • On the website, I did a search for "cartoon ducks" and selected and saved the Creative Commons image (free image that is not copyrighted) to my desktop. I purposefully chose a duck image that did not have a background.
  • Copy and paste the duck image on to a contrasting color background. Adjust the size of the duck so that five ducks can fit on the page. 
  • Save this image as "Duck 1".
  • Duplicate Duck 1 image (right click > duplicate) and save as Duck 2. 
  • On the Duck 2 image, copy and paste a second duck, adjust the size and save.
  • Repeat for Duck 3, Duck 4 and Duck 5 images.

Create Your Book

  • In the Pages app, select "add" button.
  • Select the Books - Landscape Basic template.

Screenshot of the available templates in the Pages app; an annotated arrow points to the Books - Landscape Basic Template.

Title Page

  • Select the example title text and type in the name of your book (Five Little Ducks).
  • Select the example author text (above the title text) and add your name or delete the textbox.
  • Select the example textbox below the title and delete the textbox (or add text if desired).
  • To add a picture, select the Add button in the bottom right corner of the example picture. In the popup select your desired image (Ducks 5 image).
    • Or, drag the image from your desktop to the example photo.
  • If the photo does not fit within the box, click on the image then select Format button (paintbrush symbol) > image > Edit Mask and use the slider to adjust the size of the image. Select Done.
  • Add alt text typing in the the Description box located below the Edit Mask button.

Screenshot of 5 Ducks image with annotated steps showing 1. Edit Mask button, 2. Slider for editing mask and 3. Description textbox.

Add a Page

  • In the Page Thumbnails (sample pages in a column on the left side), select the desired page layout. (I used the 3rd option, with a picture at the top and text below.)
  • Select the sample text and delete. Type (or copy/paste) the desired text.
  • Highlight the text and select the desired font, font size, spacing, etc. (I used Arial, 27 point, .3 single spacing for this book; font size may vary.)
    • The minimum default spacing is 1.0 single space. You can customize the spacing by selecting the triangle button to the left of Spacing and additional options appear.  Use the down arrow by the Line Spacing to decrease the space.
  • If necessary, move the textbook up on the page to accommodate all the text.
  • Add your picture (repeat steps for adding a picture to the title page)
  • Since this is a counting book, my alt text description is a "quack" for each duck. (Example: The image of five ducks will have 5 "quacks" spelled out in the Description textbox.)

Screenshot of first page template, with text added and desired text size & spacing.

Additional Pages

I'm all about saving time, so with repetitive books like the Five Little Ducks, I simply copied the first page five times.

  • Select the thumbnail image of the first page from the column of pages on the left side of the screen.
  • Right click on the first page and select Duplicate from the options.
  • Repeat until there are five copies of this page.
  • Delete any thumbnail sample layouts that are not needed by selecting, then right clicking on the thumbnail page and selecting the delete option in the popup menu.

Screenshot of a sample thumbnail page with a popup menu: New page, cut, copy, paste, delete, duplicate, select all, edit master pages.

Edit the Copied Pages

  • Select the first copied page. Replace the image with the 4 Ducks image.
    • In the Description textbook, delete one "quack", so that there are now 4 quacks.
  • Click on the textbox. Replace the "five" with "four" in the first sentence. Replace the "four" with "three" in the last sentence.
  • Repeat with rest of the pages. Be sure to replace the text correctly on each page as the last two pages have several additional text replacements.
  • Save your completed book! 

Note: When you save your book, the default is to save it as a ".pages".

Share the Book

When the book is complete, share the book in various formats, as students have personal preferences, use different accessibility options, and have different devices. The books creating in Pages and exported to other file types can be used by students who use Chromebooks or other devices! I initially save the various formats on my desktop, before sharing the book with others. When you create a book, please share the book with the VI community on Paths to Technology! You can find teacher-created books in the Book Library.

  • Export book by selecting File on Mac (or Share on iOS) > Export to > then select your desired format (options include: PDF, Word, ePub).

Viewing the Accessible Book on the iPad

  • If your student is using an iPad with VoiceOver, share the Pages version of the book and open the book in the Pages app on the student's iPad.
  • If the thumbnails appear in a column on the left, select the View Options button at the top of the page. Turn off Page Thumbnails.
  • Access the book in Reader mode (Edit button will appear at the top right corner when in Reader mode).

Screenshot of Five Speckled Frogs opened on iPad with annotated arrow pointing to the View Options button and arrow to Edit/Reader button.

  • Right swipes will move through title, title page image, first image description ("quack, quack, quack, quack, quack"), text on first page, etc.

Note: With this book layout, the book scrolls down not to the right.

  • Unfortunately, in Pages, VoiceOver will announce additional information such as the size of the image, "textbox", etc. I encourage the students to swipe quickly and not listen to all of that editing-related information.
  • If the book is paired with a braille display, push the joystick right or use 4+space instead of right swipes to navigate. The student can Mute the VoiceOver speech with M Chord, and using the panning keys to read the braille. The additional editing information will also appear briefly in braille.

Note: Books saved as ePub or PDF and opened on the iPad in Apple Books, are not easily navigated when VoiceOver is on. Right swipes will jump the VoiceOver focus out of the book to the tool bar at the top of the page or Page Chooser at hte bottom of the page.