January is Braille Literacy Month! With the fascinating advances in text-to-speech technology, accessible e-books and terrific audiobook narrators, it’s easy to forget how revolutionary Louis Braille‘s writing system for blind people really was. (Literally–Braille had to fight his school in order to use it.) Braille can seem cumbersome to many people, but it was an improvement over the raised letters people like Laura Bridgman used. And for everyday life, functional knowledge of Braille can still make things easier. In Do You Remember the Color Blue?, Sally Hobart Alexander writes, “Even though I’m slow [at reading Braille], Braille is crucial to my independence and keeps my spelling from deteriorating.”
For children who are born or become blind, early literacy skills present their own challenges. Sighted children are surrounded by signage and labels and other printed information, which provides ample opportunity for encouraging print awareness. Parents and caregivers might wonder how they can develop that awareness in blind children.
The Perkins School offers an extensive list of resources from pre-braille skills to reinforcement of existing skills.
Family Connect has a tip sheet for encouraging literacy skills in children with both blindness and low vision.
For kids who want to show off their Braille skills, they can try the annual Braille Challenge.
So why not show kids what’s at their fingertips?