Future Reflections         Winter 2011

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Reading Books and Having Faith

by Diane Croft

Mother with a laughing baby girl on her lap; both mother and child enjoy reading Froggy Gets Dressed.From the Editor: Diane Croft is the highly creative program developer at National Braille Press in Boston. She is also a poet and a devotee of literature and philosophy.

A good quote can pack a lot of meaning into a dense space. The best quotes teach us to think beyond our narrow confines. I begin this article with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. I propose that we use his words to help us question some assumptions. Dr. King said, "Faith is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase."

Sounds pretty simple.

To challenge myself, I Googled the quote and found a thread of responses from youngsters who were asked, "What does this quote mean to you?" The best answer (chosen by online voters) was, "Faith is starting to do something, even if you don't understand why. ... You can't see the big picture yet."

This young fellow already sees the big picture. Do we?

Another student believes the quote means, "trusting that each step you take will be illuminated enough to keep you from falling."

Ah, now we have the potential for falling. Certainly this adds another dimension. Are we willing to risk failure?

A third student volunteered, "I think it means to have faith, or believe or trust in it--whatever 'it' is--even if you have doubts or fears."

This student has added fear to the equation. Can we overcome our fears and take the first step?

The next response is my personal favorite. "I guess it would be no different than the first person who ever spoke on a telephone. They could not see the person on the other end, but they were talking to them."

Can we trust a new concept?

And finally, "It's kind of an idea about faith that guides you even though you don't know where you're going. But you know you're going in the direction you're supposed to."

So one simple quote has taken us back to where we started. How do we know which direction to go? The staircase metaphor seemed so straightforward at first. Now we're going up the stairs, now we're going down. But when it comes to our children, there are no simple directions.

Certainly we can all agree that reading to our children at an early age is the right direction to take. But if we do not yet know how much or in what way they may read, are we willing to risk failure and overcome our fears? Are we willing to expose our children to a concept that is new for many of us--Braille instead of print? Are we willing to risk failure? Are we willing to express our doubts about a system of reading with which we ourselves are not yet comfortable? Are we looking at the big picture, our child's potential future, rather than staying focused on the smaller moments of today?

We at National Braille Press are deeply committed to helping parents and teachers of blind children take that first step into reading. Of course, we think it's best if the book contains both print and Braille, even if you don't know where the future leads. With that goal in mind, we started a free Braille book program almost ten years ago. The program is called "ReadBooks: Because Braille Matters." We understand that parents are not always ready to take the first step, so we try to make it easy for them to do so.

If you have a blind child from newborn to age seven, you can contact us for a free book bag full of goodies. Everything in the bag has been selected to stimulate an interest in reading. You will find an age-appropriate print/Braille book, a tactile ball or graphic, a booklet by Deborah Kent Stein about the importance of tactile pictures, a moveable Braille Caravan block, and a coupon for another print/Braille book or set of print/Braille playing cards. You will also find a Braille primer for sighted parents called Just Enough to Know Better and a booklet called Because Braille Matters, in which Carol Castellano explains why Braille literacy is important.

National Braille Press receives tons of mail from Braille book bag recipients. I want to share one example.

"I cannot thank you enough for making these wonderful Braille book bags available for free to visually impaired children. We received the book bag last night, and my three-year-old daughter crawled up to me and started flipping through the pages of the board book and running her fingers over the Braille. This is her very first Braille book, and she absolutely loves it! It is also a very colorful and silly book. She loves the tactile ball as well.

"I also want to thank you for being so thoughtful and including educational material for the parents. This is very new to us as well, and we look forward to learning Braille along with our daughter. We even got to learn how to spell her name in Braille!

"We cannot wait to see what other great Braille books your organization has to offer each month [NBP also offers a Children's Braille Book Club.] Thanks for everything, and we wish your organization great success!"

This parent took the first step. The family has started to read together. After all is said and done, the big picture begins with faith.

To order free ReadBooks bags from National Braille Press, call customer service toll free at (800) 548-7323 or visit <www.nbp.org> and type "Readbooks" in the search box. Red bags are geared for children birth to three years of age, blue bags for ages four and five, and green bags for ages six and seven. One bag per child.

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