Braille Monitor                                                    October 2008

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2008 Braille Reading Pals Program Information and 2007 Report

Kevin Harris holds his daughter Kayla and her Beanie Baby reading pal as they prepare to read a book together.From the Editor: The NFB program for prereaders is Braille Pals. It’s a great way to get Braille readers started right. We begin with the report on the 2007 program.

When one thinks of winter, one usually calls to mind snow, evergreens, wassail, or even a jolly old fellow with an obesity problem. However, for hundreds of blind children across the country winter brings the Braille Reading Pals Program and a furry reading partner to accompany them throughout this preliteracy educational experience. The 2007 Braille Reading Pals had 231 participants who read with their parents using media that they could enjoy together. Using print-Braille storybooks, parents read for at least fifteen minutes a day while their blind child began to associate Braille with reading, entertainment, and a generally positive experience with the parent or teacher. An additional incentive arrived in the form of a Beanie Baby® to be brought out only when reading the print-Braille storybooks. Books included assorted titles such as That’s Not My Monster—a board book with additional tactile features like fur, ridges, and even scales—and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs—a classic some may recall from their own early reading experience.

Last year parents were invited to participate in our evaluation of Braille Reading Pals and its impact on preliteracy and child behavior. Ninety-seven parents participated in our preprogram survey. With help from PhD candidate Julie Durando of the University of Northern Colorado, we hope to have just as positive a return on the postprogram evaluation now being completed. Such research will not only help us improve the program, but also collect important data in an area severely lacking in research. One such goal is to discover common factors among families that encourage Braille literacy and how much those factors affect their child’s development.

The Braille Reading Pals Prereaders Program begins November 1 and ends December 31. It is a noncompetitive Braille readiness program for blind infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and older students with reading delays. Its goal is to expose the child and the family to Braille and to encourage parents (or other responsible adults) to read aloud to or with their children a minimum of fifteen minutes a day during the program. Parental permission is required. Teachers must provide a parent’s name and home address for each child registered.

Here’s how the program works:

  1. Complete and mail or fax the Braille Reading Pals Registration Form, or use the online version to register before November 1. To request a hard copy form, contact Parent Outreach Department, NFB Jernigan Institute, BRL Pals Program, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, or go to <>. For more information call (410) 659-9314, ext. 2451 or 2360, or email <[email protected]>. The fax number is (410) 659-5129.
  2. After registering, you will receive an entry form, a reading journal, a print-Braille children’s book, a Beanie Baby reading pal, instructions about how to complete the program, a Braille alphabet card, a paperback book about the importance of Braille in the lives of blind people, a booklet about reading Braille books with young blind children, and information about sources of children’s print-Braille books.
  3. When you receive the packet, here’s what you do: schedule time to read to your child a minimum of fifteen minutes a day from November 1 to December 31. Note: You will not be penalized for failing to read daily or for reading less than fifteen minutes a day. We will honor any sincere effort to participate in the program as fully as your schedule will permit. If you start before November 1, that’s fine too. However, we ask that you keep a log for only the months of November and December.
  4. As much as possible, read from print-Braille books so that your child becomes accustomed to touching Braille regularly and begins to associate Braille with the pleasure of reading. To help you get started, your packet includes a print-Braille book for you to keep.
  5. Introduce the Beanie Baby Braille reading palto your child. Explain that this is his or her reading pal to keep, but it only comes out when it is time to read. The reading pal is never played with any other time—only during reading time. Ask your child to name his/her reading pal, and encourage your child to develop a personality for it. You may want to discuss what type of animal it is, what type of voice it would have, etc. If you wish, you can engage in reading games with the reading pal. You might use a special voice and pretend to be the reading pal as you read the story aloud. Or you could ask your child to pretend to read to his or her reading pal. Have your child hold the book and pass his or her fingers over the Braille and read to the pal. In the beginning don’t be picky about how your child holds the book or touches the Braille—you just want to communicate the concept that reading involves holding a book, touching Braille, and turning pages. There are lots of possibilities for reading games with your Braille reading pal. Be creative, use your Because Books Matter: Reading Braille Books with Young Blind Children booklet and other literacy materials to get ideas.
  6. Keep the Braille reading pal and your two-month reading journal together. This year the packet also includes a chart you can mount on the wall or refrigerator door to use as your journal. Every time you read, make a notation in the journal of the date and the minutes of reading time. Other information to include in the journal is the title of the book, who is reading to the child, whether the Beanie Baby was present, and any other comments you want to make about the reading activity for the day. You will also find a stick-on sheet filled with your child’s name in Braille so that you can cut out the name and place a name label on favorite books. Children four and above will also receive a copy of the print/Braille book, Some Kids Are Blind compliments of the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults.
  7. After the program ends on December 31, fill out the “We Did It!” one-page entry form (enclosed in your packet) and mail it with a copy of your reading journal to Braille Reading Pals, Braille Readers Are Leaders, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.
  8. Every participant will receive a certification of completion and a prize that parent and child can enjoy together.

We encourage, but do not require, participation in an evaluation of the program.


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