Summer Reading (braille)
As another school year comes to an end and the summer quickly approaches, you may wonder how to help your child maintain their braille reading skills. There are ways you can help your child maintain and build on their existing skills even if you are not proficient in the braille code! Look at the summer as a great time to build a child's reading skills, love of reading, and love of books!
By: Carmen Willings
Students who are blind don't have the same opportunities to observe environmental print. You will need to make sure to point out braille as you visit restaurants, hotels, museums, etc. Point out the common locations braille can be found and also be sure to request braille menus although not all restaurants will have them. If you haven't already provided braille labels throughout your home, now is a great time to encourage your child to read by placing labels in throughout your home. You can request assistance from your child's Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI), or you can purchase a braille labeler to create your own labels. Label your child's CD or DVD collections. Create a phone book of friends names and phone numbers to keep in touch with over the summer. Summer can also be a good time to go through your child's clothes to see which clothes they've outgrown and be sure to attach braille labels to the current clothes.
Make Time to Read Daily
It is important for all students to maintain their reading skills during the summer, but it is especially important for braille learners to keep up their reading skills during long breaks from school. Although you can't simply pop into the local bookstore or into the local library, with some planning, you can still ensure your student has books to read. Sign your child up to receive books from the National Library for the Blind. It is a free service and you can request specific books or you can request books of a particular genre. Although there may be books that you want to expose your child to, not all of the books you would choose will motivate your child to read. Tap into their particular area(s) of interest. Also, if you haven't done so already, sign your child up for the Imagination Library through the American Printing House for the Blind and your child will receive a print, braille or audio book! You can also browse Seedlings collection of over 1200 books available in braille or visit the Braille Bookstore.
Build Your App Book Library
With Bookshare, Reading Ally, or Bard, your child can have access to thousands of books for their listening pleasure! Share the listening experience with your child and be sure to talk about the books and encourage your child to reflect on the stories and answer questions about the story. These books are available in braille format, but you must have access to a braille embosser or a refreshable braille display to access the braille.
As your family goes on trips and vacations, be sure to bring along your child's slate and stylus! The slate and stylus is much more portable than a braille writer and will encourage your child to practice their writing skills. Keep in mind that writing with a slate and stylus is very different from using the braillewriter. Not all students will have the skills to produce legible braille, but any writing efforts should be encouraged. Most postcards are a perfect weight for writing braille as they are made of medium to heavy cardstock (Just don't choose a postcard that is too thick, making it be too difficult to braille on.) If the recipient does not read braille, be sure to provide both print and braille on the postcard.
Not only will playing cards help the students develop a leisure activity and build social skills, but it will help them practice their braille skills as well! There are a number of commercially available games. The most widely available card games include UNO and a standard deck of cards. Many games can be adapted - some more easily than others. It may take a little creativity with a braille labeler, puffy paint, or textures, but you can adapt many commercially available games on your own!
If you haven't already done so, challenge yourself this summer to learn just enough braille to be able to help your child...or learn the whole braille code! It really is not as difficult as many people think and if viewed as a puzzle is really a lot of fun! Remember - it is OK for you to read the braille visually!
Just Enough to Know Better by Eileen Curran is a good starting place and even include braille flashcards to allow you to quiz yourself. You could also ask your child's TVI if you can borrow Quick Pick from APH over the summer! I'm sure your TVI would support any of your efforts to learn the braille code!
Better yet, encourage the whole family to learn the braille code! Siblings can get involved by going to the American Foundation for the Blind's Braille Bug site. Here they will learn more about braille and be able to solve games and puzzles with their new found skill!