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FamilyConnect Celebrates Read Across America Day!
by Scott Truax on 2/27/2013 5:00:50 PM
Reading is an important skill for lifelong learning and entertainment. Friday (March 1, 2013) is Read Across America Day, an annual event sponsored by the National Education Association (NEA). We are including several links for you to learn more about how you can be involved.
We'd love to hear what you're doing to celebrate reading. Let us know by commenting below, or on FamilyConnect's Facebook page.
Touching Letters...Touching Lives
by Scott Truax on 1/8/2013 1:34:18 PM
In honor of National Braille Literacy Month, we asked guest blogger Michael Cavanaugh, a dad who lives in Seattle, Washington, to write about what braille has meant to him.
Getting the Diagnosis
Life was turned upside down for me in 1993 when I learned my newborn son was blind. The doctors originally thought he had congenital cataracts and recommended immediate surgery. On the day of surgery, after what seemed like an eternity, the surgeon said the operation revealed Norrie's Disease and there was no chance of restoring any sight. My capsized life started to sink.
My pediatrician assured me that she would contact someone who could alleviate my fears, and called the Washington Department of Services for the Blind (DSB). Within a few days, Scott Truax was at my door. He told my wife and I to hang onto our dreams. Our son could still grow up to be anything he wanted. He also invited us to DSB's Preschool Conference the following spring. The keynote speaker was someone not to be missed.
Learning a New Way to Communicate, and a New Career
The words that touched me so deeply during that conference were those about the importance of learning braille. Not only for my son—he had no choice—but also for me. It would allow me an additional way to communicate with my son. After all, when he grew up, I couldn't very well leave a printed note on the table telling him I was at the grocery store.
So, after eight years of adjusting life around a blind child, I went back to school, so to speak. The Washington Talking Book & Braille Library in downtown Seattle was offering classes in Literary Braille. After years of transcribing for the library to hone my transcribing skill, I submitted my 35-page braille manuscript to the Library of Congress to become an "official" Literary Braille Transcriptionist.
I have worked in the public school system as a transcriber and always prided myself on helping to make a level playing field for the visually impaired. The best part of a transcriber's job, for me at least, is getting to use my creative skills making tactile graphs or objects. Explaining something to a visually impaired person only goes so far. To create something that they can touch, feel and explore...it gives me great satisfaction, and them better understanding.
Currently I volunteer for the WTBBL library and would like to get back into the public school system or private sector to utilize more of my braille skills.
My son? He's attending community college studying to become a desktop support person. He's quite technically inclined and really wants to get into broadcasting. His knowledge of the radio market spans the entire country and astounds me.
Happy Birthday, Louis Braille!
by Scott Truax on 1/4/2013 2:20:20 PM
It was 204 years ago on this date that Louis Braille was born. His invention and refinement of the braille code opened the doors to education and literacy in general for individuals with vision loss.
After two centuries, braille continues to be at the core of necessary skills for independence. You can learn more about Louis Braille's life by browsing AFB's Louis Braille Museum.
And have fun learning more about his famous code through accessible games and activities on the Braille Bug® site.
FamilyConnect also has a wide variety of literacy resources for parents no matter what your chid's preferred reading method is.
Inventor of Top-Braille Wins a Prestigious Award, Makes Headlines Around the World
by Susan LaVenture on 5/11/2010 5:20:22 PM
Each year, for 109 years, the Lépine Contest in France selects a famous invention. This year the Top-Braille handheld device for instant playback of any printed text in braille or speech has won the prize—selected from more than 500 inventions!
It is so cool to see how far technology has come in making communication accessible for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. It's great to see that this device is being recognized and I hope that it will bring awareness to the public about the importance of technology's role in keeping communications accessible for blind and visually impaired people. Especially as the world moves forward in technical advancements with new ways of communicating—whether it be the Internet, computers, phones, television, film—we need to make sure these new social networking features and functions are made accessible for people who are blind or visually impaired.
The inventor, Raoul Parienti, is a former math teacher and engineer. His sister was the inspiration for the invention as she was visually impaired and brought to his attention that very few documents are written in braille. The device currently reads seven languages: French, English, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, and Dutch.
I thought it was an interesting fact since Louise Braille, the inventor of the braille code, was from France, too—born 201 years ago!
Celebrate Children's Book Week with Braille, Tactile, and Large-Print Books
by Susan LaVenture on 5/10/2010 11:26:42 AM
I hope you all had a wonderful Mother's Day weekend, and maybe even scored some precious rest. This week, I wanted to alert you to another special occasion: Children's Book Week!
Since 1919, Children's Book Week has been celebrated nationally in schools, libraries, bookstores, and homes around the country—any place where there are children and books. How will you and your family celebrate?
Check the FamilyConnect calendar for events and programs near you, and explore the resources that partners like Bookshare, the Braille Institute of America, National Braille Press, Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, and the American Printing House for the Blind have to offer.
And share your suggestions with other parents right here; what have been some of your child's favorite books? What is your favorite resource for braille, large-print, or audio books? Have you ever created tactile books with your child? Explore FamilyConnect's articles about Promoting Your Child's Development of Reading and Writing Skills and Reading and Making Tactile Books with Your Child. Let's share our good ideas!
Exploring Foreign Languages with Braille
by Susan LaVenture on 2/18/2009 5:24:17 PM
I recently came across this interesting article written by a dad in Los Angeles, Eric Vasiliauskas, who wanted to share his Lithuanian culture with his blind son: "Enriching Your Blind Child's Life via Foreign Language Braille". Literacy and braille are so very important and this site brings into focus how families can bring foreign language into braille for their children.
What do you think, have you tried introducing your child to a foreign language in braille? I would love to hear about your experiences.
By the way, I just learned that AFB's Braille Bug® site has added a good introductory article about foreign language braille, as well articles about music braille and the Nemeth code, which is used for math.
Making Decisions and Keeping Track
by Cay Holbrook on 1/29/2009 1:50:41 PM
Hi again everyone!
I thought maybe this week I would discuss the issue of making literacy decisions throughout your child's educational life. I think that the people who visit this Family Connect website are at various levels in their journey. Some of you will have preschool children and will just be beginning to find information that you need. Others of you will be "seasoned experts" with older children and years under your belt. Still other families are here because their child may have experienced a decrease in visual acuity or ability recently, regardless of their age.
One important issue for parents is the decision about their child's reading media. Some people consider this a decision between two options: print OR braille. I'd like to challenge that assumption and give you another way of thinking about this decision. I'd like to give you some things to think about as you consider decisions related to your child's reading media:
1. As I mentioned in the previous post, I like to think of a child's "literacy toolbox" as big, open, and flexible. Our goal should be to fill the child's toolbox with as many tools as appropriate so that as your child grows, he or she will have many ways to gather information and can choose the best tool to use for the task. Have you ever heard the old saying "If all you have is a hammer, all you see are nails"? We want children to grow with many options for gathering and conveying information including possibly print, braille, large print, print accessed with the use of optical devices, auditory books, live readers, use of slate and stylus, use of computers...the list goes on and on!
2. I believe that the decision to focus on braille or print or a combination of braille and print in initial reading and writing instruction should be based on specific information about your child, not on a philosophical stance or attitudes. PRINT and BRAILLE are equal in value, anything that can be represented in print can be represented in braille; please remember that this is a decision that empowers your child! Looking at your child's unique characteristics is the best way to make good decisions.
3. I believe that your voice, your thoughts, your opinions are critical in this decision. There are creative, experienced professionals who can provide you with their thoughts and opinions based on their (often extensive) experience and these opinions can be incredibly valuable, but ultimately, you are the expert on your child. Sometimes the decision about reading media is complex and having several different perspectives can strengthen the decision-making process.
4. Please don't forget that decisions about the tools in your child's literacy toolbox should be revisited often (at least once a year) with two things in mind--how is your child progressing in the current medium and are there literacy tools that should be added to your child's toolbox?
So, those are my quick thoughts on this Thursday morning. Next week, let's talk about literacy INSTRUCTION! That will be fun!
Falling in Love with Braille
by Cay Holbrook on 1/20/2009 5:14:26 PM
Hello everyone! Happy New Year! I'm Cay Holbrook. I am thrilled to be connecting with you this month and hope that we can have some very interesting discussions and learn from each other.
First I will tell you a little bit about myself. When I was an undergraduate student at Florida State University, I happened to know a fellow student who was in the program to prepare teachers of students with visual impairments. I went over to his house one Sunday afternoon and he was completing his braille homework and I started looking at the Perkins braillerwriter and his textbook. It was love at first sight! I was so intrigued with those six dots and I spent hours pouring over Louis Braille's ingenious code! In fact, my friend was very happy because he was able to go in the other room and watch a football game while I monopolized his braillewriter!
I became a teacher of students with visual impairments and worked directly with children (mostly elementary aged) in Florida, South Carolina and Georgia. Then, I realized that I had a passion for "spreading the word" to other people who were interested in teaching children with visual impairments and so, I went back to school and completed graduate work, eventually a Ph.D. Since that time, I have been preparing teachers in Baltimore, Maryland (at Johns Hopkins University), in Little Rock, Arkansas (at The University of Arkansas at Little Rock) and currently at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, Canada!
Without question, I would say that my most powerful memories in my work have been my connections with children and their families. I am so grateful when parents invite me to join them in their journey and I appreciate how much I learn from these families. I have been fortunate to have had many opportunities to step far away from the "ivory tower" of university life as teachers, parents and student generously include me in their lives.
I'd love to hear your stories!
I am interested in everything concerning children and youth with visual impairments! How is that for an open door for discussion? But, I am most interested in the development of literacy skills. This includes the development of reading and writing in print, braille, a combination of print and braille and other methods of accessing information in our world! During the next few weeks we will mainly focus on literacy, but I am happy to address other topics as well.
Editor's note: Dr. Holbrook is also the author and editor of many books and articles, which are available in the AFB bookstore.