Future Reflections         Winter 2010

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The 2009 Braille Book Flea Market

by Peggy Chong

Seated in a wheelchair, Gabby Nicholas of Indiana beams as she holds three Braille books on her lap.From the Editor: For blind children, Braille books are a precious commodity, and there never seem to be enough to meet the demand. The Braille Book Flea Market gives kids, parents, and teachers a chance to choose from thousands of donated used books. Peggy Chong offers a glimpse of the excitement and camaraderie of the flea market in Detroit.

The 2009 Braille Book Flea Market of the National Federation of the Blind was held on Sunday, July 5, at our national convention in Detroit, Michigan. Once again, it was a big success.

Eager shoppers started to line up outside the Ambassador 3 Ballroom just after four o'clock. Everyone wanted to be the first in line for the great offerings. The Braille Book Flea Market collects books for several months. UPS in Detroit began to receive the books at its offices in April and brought them to the hotel before the event. On July 5 volunteers brought the hundreds of boxes to the ballroom. They opened the cartons, sorted the books, found lost volumes, set up the tables, and prepared the boxes for reuse. All of this was done in about four hours.

This year we had a larger room than usual, allowing us to add more tables and display more of our books for those coming through the door at five o'clock. Almost half of the books were on the tables as the doors opened. The rest of the books were added as space cleared. Many of the previous attendees now have a system down. They head directly to the area where their most sought-for book may be. When they find it they load a box for mailing, then go through the books on the tables a second time.

A young boy examines the selection of Braille books on a table.Volunteers kept busy. Before the flea market opened, each volunteer tried to get familiar with as many titles in his/her area as possible. When the doors opened they tried to keep up with the requests of those who were looking, keep the tables filled with material, and assist in gathering and boxing material for attendees. Our volunteers always do a great job. Several of them come back each year to help, and their service is greatly appreciated.

Our book selections were varied. Less than one thousand Twin Vision® books were sent in to the Flea Market this year, so these books were gone in less than twenty minutes. Twin Vision® books are always in very high demand. There were at least three complete sets of Harry Potter books, as well as additional copies of individual titles. Some resource material was sent in. Three dictionaries were soon snarfed up by those eager to have their own books. This year several cookbooks made their way to Detroit, only to be shipped off elsewhere. All in all, the selections were just what the eager shopper was looking for.

Children were earnestly reading each title in a stack of books, looking for a new story they had not read. Parents were asking for all the books in a certain series. Teachers wanted to know where to find smaller volumes to present to their beginning readers back home. Families searched for the perfect bedtime stories for Mommy or Daddy to read next week.

A giant sheet cake displays the words HAPPY BIRTHDAY LOUIS BRAILLE written in chocolate dots.Attendees enjoyed a child-friendly snack of hotdogs and chips while waiting for their books to be prepared for mailing back home. For dessert there was a tasty birthday cake with "Happy Birthday Louis Braille" spelled out in chocolate candies.

Within two hours over 80 percent of the books had new homes. Countless books left the Flea Market to be taken home in the family car, suitcase, or tote bag. Between 210 and 220 boxes of books were sent across the country as Free Matter for the Blind to the participants who could not fit their treasures into a suitcase.

The remaining forty boxes of books that did not find a home through the Braille Book Flea Market were addressed to the NFB ShareBraille program. ShareBraille is also a free program that allows readers to exchange or find Braille material. For more information on the NFB ShareBraille program, go to <www.NFBShareBraille.org>.

We would like to thank the AT&T workers in the Detroit area who assisted with this year's flea market by running the mailing station. They also presented the NOPBC with a check for $1,600 to cover some of the food costs. Without them, this year's event would not have been the great success that it was.

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