Future Reflections September- December 1983, Vol. 2 No. 5

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PRINT-BRAILLE BOOKS FOR CHILDREN

The very first issue of FUTURE REFLECTIONS (then called the NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND NEWSLETTER FOR PARENTS OF BLIND CHILDREN) had as its lead article, "A Message from the President," by our NFB national president, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. Among other things, he noted that, "The blind now have more choices and possibilities open to them than ever before in history, and most of the progress can be traced (directly or indirectly) to the work of the NFB." We are still making progress and the NFB is an even stronger factor in those changes than ever before.

Often, however, we are unaware of the small, but important ways we have influenced attitudes, people and programs. It was a pleasure, then, when I recently received a letter from Diane L. Croft of the National Braille Press and learned that, due in part to the National Federation of the Blind's influence, the National Braille Press will be offering children's print Braille books for sale in the fall, 1983. That letter is printed in full below, and furnishes all the background and details. We are pleased with this effort to make more Braille children's books available, and we applaud the National Braille Press for its initiative in developing this program. We are also pleased that, once again, the NFB was a catalyst for progress.

Boston, MA
August 9,1983

Dear Barbara,

As a producer of Braille books and magazines, the National Braille Press often receives phone calls from parents and teachers requesting "print-Braille" children's books. We refer people to several sources, including the American Brotherhood for the Blind, for borrowing children's books.

It doesn't seem like such an unreasonable request -- in 1983 -- to be able to buy children's books in Braille just as sighted children do in print. On the other hand, after buying the print book, transcribing and inserting the Braille pages, binding and shipping -- the cost of children's books in Braille doubles.

Then one day I was reading an article in a back issue of FUTURE REFLECTIONS entitled, "Braille and the Preschooler," by Ramona Walhof. In this article she explains the need for blind children to be exposed to Braille at an early age "... blind children who start school rarely have had the kind of exposure to Braille that their sighted peers have had to print. Reading and writing Braille need not be a disadvantage, for Braille can be read and written rapidly. It is a disadvantage to get a late start."

Then she made the following statement:

"It is especially desirable for the blind child to be able to ANTICIPATE reading the same books that mother and dad read aloud."

Yes indeed. We all know how important the early development years are in forming a positive self-image and feeling a part of society. If we cannot anticipate participating, as others, in activities of daily life, it impacts on our personal development.

Back to the drawing board. How can we produce children's "print-Braille" books inexpensively? Answer: Get a national publisher to participate in the program.

In January of this year, we submitted a proposal to Houghton Mifflin Publishing Company to sponsor a Children's Braille Book-of-the-Month Club. We asked them to donate several hundred books each month, and to allow us to recover some of our costs by selling them for a modest price.

But sometimes the reply is, "can't we buy them?" Six months later the books arrived at our doorstep.

Starting in December with a Christmas book, we will commence a Children's Braille Book-of-the-Month Club. A new title will be featured each month and club members will receive notices (in print and Braille) describing that month's feature book.

Membership in the Club is free. Simply send your name and address to the National Braille Press, 88 Saint Stephen St., Boston, MA 02115, and ask to become a member. Don't wait until December, do it now so we have time to process the list. Most of the books will be for preschool and ages 3-8. The price of the "print-Braille" book will not exceed that of the inkprint. YOU ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO BUY. When you wish to order a book, simply send in the request.

Success of this program means generating a mailing list of interested members, so please encourage your readers to participate. We hope this will allow children (and parents) to read and re-read a favorite book.

Mastery of our environment and acquisition of literary skills is an important start for everyone.

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