Daddy Read Me
by Bonnie Peterson
From the Editor: Bonnie Peterson is a long-time leader in the National Federation of the Blind. Here is her contribution to Wall-to-Wall Thanksgiving, the thirteenth Kernel Book. It begins with Dr. Jernigan's introduction.
If you could change just one thing about your childhood, what would it be? An interesting question and one which you would normally expect to bring a wide variety of answers. But if you ask this question of a group of blind people, you tend to get one overwhelming response: "I wish I had been taught to read Braille." In "Daddy Read Me" Bonnie Peterson expresses the pain and anguish of a mother who cannot read to her three-year-old.
Here is what she says:
I teach communications and public speaking in the university system of Wisconsin. I am also blind. Taking notes is, of course, something that is extremely valuable to me. I take notes on a myriad of topics, and I take them in Braille. I use Braille to write notes to myself about grades and other important information concerning my students.
I also use Braille in my home life--writing down appointments and grocery lists and keeping track of my two daughters' schedules. (They have basketball practice, volleyball and soccer games, and gymnastic classes--and I have to see that everyone gets to the right place at the right time.) But it wasn't always that way. I didn't always take notes in Braille.
When I went to school, my parents were told that I didn't need Braille; after all, I could see. We didn't know about the National Federation of the Blind then. I went all the way through school and college, struggling to try to read with my tiny amount of remaining eyesight.
Then the National Federation of the Blind came into my life, and I saw wonderful, positive blind people doing things that I couldn't do in a million years--like reading and writing Braille comfortably and easily. These were people who weren't struggling with eyestrain, which had become such an ordinary fact of my everyday life that I didn't even bother complaining about it.
You would have thought that would be enough to make me change, but it wasn't. It took the reaction of my three-year-old daughter to do that.
I was reading her a book about Dumbo the elephant. Of course, reading the book meant wrapping it around my face, straining to see the print, and stumbling as I tried to read what I could not see. I still remember the way she looked at me and said, "Daddy read me." Even though she did not mean to be cruel, what I heard in her words was, "You are stupid!"
That was enough for me. With the help of the Federation I learned Braille in two months, and my life has been changed forever because of it. Not just because of Braille, but because of the self-confidence I have gained. I owe a great part of who and what I am today to the National Federation of the Blind.