How to Proofread Kids' Books

What is proofreading in the context of Bookshare?

As the proofreader, you will identify and correct scanning mistakes and make sure the file is formatted properly. You will also be adding in image descriptions.

Kids’ books are especially difficult to scan because they have different font types, lots of images, text boxes, and other unusual formatting. Sometimes the scanner will miss letters, words, or even entire sections of text so those will have to be retyped. Images will be removed so you will replace them with image descriptions.

You will use a hard copy of the book and compare it to a scanned RTF (Rich Text Format) file. Keep the file in RTF as you edit and when you save it. Make sure to save as you go!

Prepare the File to Proofread

Pick a book from the Bookshare queue, and then click “check out”. The book will automatically download to your computer. Once you have opened the file, format the document as follows:

  1. Change the page view to “draft” (under “view” at the top of your document)
  2. Change section breaks to page breaks (hit “CTRL+H” and  put ^b in the “find” section and ^m in the “replace” section)
  3. Change the font to an easy-to-read style (such as Times New Roman)
  4. Left align all text
  5. Change all text to 12 point font

Intro to Proofreading

You will need to compare the text in the RTF to the hard copy of the book to make sure it matches exactly. You will also be adding the formatting detailed in the checklist below. Some tasks are required because of the conversion process the file will undergo when it is uploaded to Bookshare. Others keep us in compliance with copyright law. Lastly, you will be adding in image descriptions as needed.

Not only does the book’s main text need to match the file, but the title page, copyright page, and information in the back of the book are equally important., as are any blank pages. Start with the very, very first page of the book (not the cover). This is usually the title page. Look at the page in the book and look at your file? Is all of text in each place? On the copyright page, this even includes those little strings of numbers at the bottom of the page. If anything is missing or garbled, fix it.

The actual content of children’s books varies widely, so when you have special situations or doubts, use the text of the book as your guide for how to make the electronic version as clear and faithful to the original as possible. 

Proofreading Checklist

1. Bolding and italics: should be kept as they are in the text. Many books for kids will highlight vocabulary words in bolded letters, so it’s critical to keep them. Sometimes the scanner will bold sections of text, or part of a work, make sure to un-bold these sections. Additionally, some children’s books will change font style or size to highlight certain important phases. Instead of changing the font, just bold or italicize these words using your best judgment.

2. Capital letters: Make sure to keep all capitalized letters/words as they are in the text.

3. Page breaks: The file’s page breaks should match the pages in the book. This may mean that you need to add one in or remove an extra one. Add one in by clicking the spot in the text where you want to add it and pressing “CTRL+Enter.” Remove them by highlighting and pressing delete.

4. Line breaks: Even when lines on a single page are split up, you should write them as a single sentence or paragraph UNLESS they are part of a rhyme scheme. If the text includes dialogue, add a line break after each line that a character says so that the dialogue will not be confused with other characters’ lines or with the narration. 

5. Blank pages: are important to keep as-is and should be marked as “blank page” in brackets: [blank page]. Do not include any blank pages before the title page or at the end after the text has finished.

6. Page numbers: if your book has page numbers, keep them where they are in the actual book. Make sure they’re on their own line with nothing else on that line (this may mean deleting the chapter title or author’s name from the line next to or above the page number).  If some pages have page numbers but others do not, add the missing numbers. Do not use headers or footers to number pages, and do not add page numbers if they do not exist in the hard copy.

7. Changing font sizes: To allow for navigation, please change the following:

The book title: 20 point font and bold

Sections, Books, or Parts: 18 point and bold

Chapters: 16 point and bold

Subchapters: 14 point and bold

For most kids' books, typically you will only change for the book's title to 20 point and bold and possibly any chapter titles to 16 point and bold. It's rare to use the others

8. Images: any images in your file need to be deleted.

9. Image descriptions: If your book has images in it, they may need to be described. Read the text around the image and read the caption, if one is available. If you think the image contains information MISSING without a description, please describe it.

Keep scrolling down for more details about image descriptions!

10. Formatting image descriptions: Image descriptions should be placed in square brackets. They should be written in complete sentences with proper grammar. They should not duplicate the caption, but instead should describe whatever is missing from the caption, or whatever information is needed to better understand the caption. They should be concise, containing no more information than is important to the story. Example: There’s an old, detailed, hand-drawn map but the caption only tells you about the map, not what you actually see when you look at the map.

Caption: Antonio Pigafetta, an Italian, may have made this early 1500s map of the Strait of Magellan. Pigafetta called the strait "Streto patagonico." The Spanish named this part of South America "Patagonia."

The caption does not tell you what the Strait of Magellan is, so we need a description.

[Map: Two bodies of land are separated by a thin channel of water that connects two oceans on either side of the land.]

Since this image is very obviously a map, it is marked as such at the beginning of the description. The same would go for a photo or a diagram. If you don’t know what the image is exactly, just write “image.”


[Image: There are three ships in the ocean. Five men row a small wooden boat in front of the ships. One pokes at the water with a stick. There are rocks and huge white glaciers around the ships.]

Maybe you don’t know if it’s a painting or a drawing, and you don’t want to guess. When this happens, just write “image” as it’s written above.

For kids’ early reading books, it’s important to figure out what the reader misses if he or she can’t see the image. Often, it’s the physical description of main characters and their surroundings get lost. For example, a book about a main character who is a cat named Kitty might never actually tell the reader that the main character is a cat.

In your image descriptions, use a vocabulary level that matches the book’s vocabulary level.  Some children’s books will be very simple and require a very basic vocabulary, while others are aimed at older children and have more complex vocabulary. 

11. Image captions: If there is an image caption, please make sure to keep it in the text! If it’s in the middle of a paragraph (or off to the side in the book), please move it to the end of the nearest paragraph, or wherever it makes the most sense. If it’s not immediately obvious that it is an image captions, place the words “image caption” immediately before it in square brackets and consider describing the image (see above). Example: [image caption] A snake glides through the grass.

12. Missing text: Compare each page of the book to your file. Since these books are very image-heavy, it’s common for the scanner to get confused and miss certain pieces. This may mean that you have to retype something. Make sure each page of your file has the same information as that page in the book (with the exception of the images).

13. Bullets: Change these to asterisks.

14. Table of contents formatting: Depending on the way the table of contents has been formatted in the book, either change the tabs to one space or change the long line of periods to an ellipsis followed by a space.

15. Garbage characters: These are often strings of numbers or letters that show up at the bottom or top of each page. They can occur when the scanner tries to interpret dust or dirt as letters, or if there are decorative marks at the top or bottom of the page. These should be removed.

16. Sidebars and textboxes: These should be moved to the most useful place possible and out of the middle of paragraphs or sentences. This may mean that you have to move them to the end of a page or to the beginning, but it’s important to avoid interfering with the flow of the text. Keep in mind that most members will be listening to this book aloud, so it would be very confusing to be listening to this book and have the paragraph interrupted for a sidebar!

17. Images that span two pages: Many children’s books include images that spread across two pages.  When important parts of the image are on both pages, use the tag “[Image spans two pages: <description>]”.  If the parts of the image that are on one of the pages are not important to the action, there’s no need to use the two-page format. Place the image description wherever it makes the most sense in relation to the text on the page. 

18. Squashed together or split apart words: This happens with smaller fonts. Example: "Her highness loved thecolor blue." "thecolor" should be separated into two words: "the" and "color". Example: "He wanted to dis- appear from the classroom." The dash should be removed and "disappear" should be made into one word. Move the end of the split word to the page above along with any punctuation immediately following it.

19.  Ellipses: make sure there is a space between the last dot and the first letter of the net word.

20.  Fill-in-the-blank: they should be formatted with only one underscore.


What to do when you’ve finished proofing the file:

  1. Login to Go to “My Bookshare” and then click “My Checked out Books”
  2. Find the title you’ve been working on and click “Check In”
  3. You’ll be prompted to select a file from your checked out items. Then click “Continue”
  4. This next page will have info about misspellings and quality analysis results. Ignore this but click “Continue”
  5. Now you’ll find an editable page with information about the book. Don’t change anything. Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page and click “Check in book.”


Describing Images (More Details):

Read the text above and below the image to determine whether or not it has already been described. If so, just replace the image with “image is described in the text” in brackets (or write this wherever the image is in the text): [image is described in the text]. If it hasn’t been described and it is critical to understanding the information, do the following:

  1. Format like so: [Image: A volcano sprays red lava high into the air. Red lava also trails down the side.]
  2. Use language that reinforces the text and is simple. Your words do not have to be at the student’s reading level but they do need to be at the child’s comprehension level. Remember who the audience is.
  3. Be as efficient with words and punctuation as possible. Write complete sentences in the present tense using an active voice. Think about getting as much content into as few words as possible. A great practice is to read your descriptions aloud to yourself or another. How do the words flow when heard vs. read?
  4. Whenever possible, instead of using the word “image” in the description, convey more meaningful information by identifying the type of image (photo, drawing, cartoon, picture, poster, etc.).
  5. Do not interrupt a sentence. Move the image description to the next most logical place in the book (usually at the end of a paragraph).
  6. Be Objective. Rather than writing [Image: A boy pounds his fists, jumps with excitement, and shrieks happily.], write: [Image: A boy jumps into the air with his hands balled into fists overhead. He is smiling with an open mouth.] You don’t know that he’s happy, but by describing his smile, the reader can assume it. You also don’t know that he’s shrieking, but by describing his open mouth, the reader can assume it.