The BEE: November 2018

This is the last BEE for 2018 and we would like to wish you all a very joyous and healthy holiday season!

What’s Buzzing with the National Federation of the Blind?

The holiday season is fast approaching. Once again, the National Federation of the Blind is helping Santa Claus send letters in Braille to young blind children across the country. 

More than ten years ago, Santa asked us to be his honorary elves. Ever since, we've been helping him send letters in contracted Braille to blind boys and girls who are ten years old and younger in the United States. Along with the Braille letter, Santa includes a print letter so that parents who might not read Braille can follow along. He also includes a fun tactile coloring sheet.

Requests can be made from November 12, 2018, through December 14, 2018. To make a request, please fill out the online form located at Remember, requests must be received no later than December 14 so that Santa’s letter will arrive before Christmas.

We wish all of you a joyful holiday season!

Literacy Hints from the Hive

The holiday season can be an extremely busy time. There is food to cook, travel that needs to be undertaken in order to spend time with family or friends, or perhaps an entire house to clean to get ready for visitors. Eventually, there are presents to buy, presents to wrap, goodies to bake, and decorations to place. There are holiday parties to attend, holiday themed activities at school or church… Oh, I’m getting tired just thinking about all of these activities!

Because we tend to push ourselves so hard during this time of year, I find it easy to become slightly exhausted, and this feeling can really make it difficult for me to keep my mind on what the holidays are really for—being together, giving thanks for all of the wonderful things in my life, and so much more. So, this year, I plan to do a few activities with my own children to help all of us stay more grounded during this upcoming holiday season. These activities have the benefit of easily incorporating Braille into something fun and meaningful. I hope you will take the time to do one or two activities like this with your family.

For very young children, it’s tough to explain concepts about being thankful, or even the holidays. Luckily, there are many books about the holidays—some are even board books with print, Braille, and items to touch. There are also great stories about families loving one another and being thankful for all of the things they have. Taking a moment or two to share special stories with your young children can slow down the day, create special memories, and might even lead to some holiday book traditions as your child grows.

Preschool and older children might enjoy books as well, but they can also begin to think about and share what they are thankful for. Young children can create pictures of things they are thankful for. They can use stickers, pipe cleaners, and other tactile materials to create the pictures, and they can be encouraged to Braille a word or a sentence for their picture. You can also make a paper chain of thanks. Cut different colored construction paper into strips. Ask your child to Braille one thing she is thankful for on each strip. Then, show your child how to make each strip into a ring, glue or staple it together, and then thread more strips into each ring in order to form a chain. See how long of a chain you can create, or you ask your child to come up with a certain number of things for which she is thankful. Use the chain to count down to a specific holiday by taking one strip from the chain each day and reading what is Brailled on each strip. You can save each strip in some way as a reminder of all of the things for which she has given thanks. Or, you ask your child to come up with tasks she would like to do for others. You can have her write each of these on a strip of paper, mix the strips up, form them into a chain, and then do something nice for someone every day by removing a strip from the chain and reading what is written on it.

Are paper chains not your style? Perhaps a gratitude journal is more up your alley. Discuss with your child one thing she is thankful for each day. Have her write this down in a journal; she could create art work to go along with each entry. Or, if your child is really up for a challenge, have her try to think of one thing she is thankful for using each letter of the alphabet. I did this last year (I read a friend’s post on Facebook where she took on this task) and it was a lot of fun. I hope some of these activities will help you bring Braille to your child, along with holiday spirit, a little relaxation, and a lot of giving thanks.

Travel Tales

The holidays often mean eating a little too much of those foods that might not be the best for you. This may mean a desire for more exercise. Blind children need exercise too. Here is an article with many wonderful tips to make sure your blind child is fully participating in gym class, recess, and other social activities. This is just as important in the winter as at any other time of year.

It’s Recess Time

A Taste of Honey

Right now there is a large turkey defrosting in my refrigerator. It occurred to me recently that until I was an adult and helped to cook a turkey for my family, I had never truly had the chance to explore a turkey—either alive or dead. I understood certain things about a turkey. First, you can easily make a picture that (supposedly) looks like a turkey by tracing around your hand… (Honestly, that’s still something I struggle to understand, but I take the sighted world’s word for it.) Turkeys are birds. They have wings and feathers. They have legs. They have drumsticks… (But what part of the turkey are drumsticks, I remember wondering, but never asking.) And, they have a wishbone.  

My mom often let me touch the turkey when we got it home from the grocery store. I was able to help carry it and to feel how heavy and cold it was. I have to say though, this experience, though incredibly valuable, did not help me at all in transferring the knowledge I had about living turkeys to this frozen practically ball-shaped heavy object in my hands.

So, even though touching raw meat is not the most pleasant thing for many children, I encourage you to allow your blind child to explore your defrosted turkey before you cook it. Have your child touch the turkey all over. Talk to him about each part he is feeling. Explain to him what you will do in order to get the turkey ready to cook, and have him help you with the preparations. Talk about the difference between white meat and dark meat and explain where each type of meat is found. I admit, this is still a concept I am a little unclear about; I know there is white and dark meat, but I cannot taste the difference myself, and I can never remember where each type of meat is found on the turkey.

If you have the opportunity, you might want to take your child to a farm where he can touch a living turkey as well. But even the exploration of a lifeless turkey before cooking will add a great deal to your child’s experience and understanding about the food on the holiday table.