by Doris M. Willoughby
From the Editor: For years Jennifer Dunnam has collected ideas for a book teaching effective use of the slate and stylus to write Braille. She has two excellent credentials for taking on such a project: she is herself an experienced Braille reader and writer, and she is a gifted Braille teacher. She says that much of the book was first jotted down using a slate as she thought up ideas for exercises or collected information on different slates and helpful techniques. Many people contributed to the book, and Jennifer's own students helped her spot mistakes.
Doris Willoughby is herself a widely respected writer and educator of blind children. Here is her enthusiastic review of The Slate Book:
"The slate is the basic, universal Braille writing tool and is equivalent to the pen or pencil for writing print." This is the first sentence in the excellent new book by Jennifer Dunnam. Topics include loading the slate, holding the stylus, keeping the place, increasing speed, hints on taking notes, specific techniques, and practice exercises.
Detailed, sequential practice exercises are provided. Practice sentences are interesting and varied but avoid exotic and unusual words. Extensive suggestions address various barriers‑‑real and perceived‑‑that often deter people from using the slate. The heading "101 Topics" lists suggestions for short compositions. (Example: Describe your worst shopping nightmare.)
Jennifer Dunnam is a skilled slate user and a Braille teacher with extensive experience. She has made this book appropriate for adult students, teachers, parents, and children. Several helpful photographs appear; however, everything is also clearly described verbally.
In all, there are sixty-one pages of helpful information and suggestions. Many things, such as the composition topics, are useful for areas of study other than the slate itself. The book's focus, however, is clearly on the slate: "It is assumed that the student either already knows how to read Braille or is currently learning with the help of instructional material and/or a teacher.
Reading this book is like having a nice, long visit with a very good teacher, with opportunities to observe actual classes. The Slate Book is available for $14 from the National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. At this time it is available only in inkprint; however, Braille and recorded editions are planned.
Note that the Grade II signs are introduced in the same order as in The McDuffy Reader, which is an excellent instruction book for learning to read Braille and is also available from the National Federation of the Blind. Credit card orders may be placed by fax to (410) 685-5653, attention Materials Center, or by emailing <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Be sure to include both the credit card number and the expiration date.
The Slate Book is a labor of love, and it fills a real need in Braille instruction. We now have no excuses for failing to teach or learn the use of the Braille slate.