The Braille Pals Buzz Volume 1, Issue 2 What's Buzzing with the nfb braille Reading Pals Team?

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The Braille Pals Buzz

The Braille Pals Buzz
Volume 1, Issue 2
What's Buzzing with the NFB Braille Reading Pals Team?
Welcome to a second edition of the NFB Braille Reading Pals Club newsletter! Throughout the past month, we’ve added about fifty new participants to our program. Thank you all so much for valuing your child’s early literacy and participating in this program.
If you have any suggestions about topics you want to have covered in the newsletter, comments, or questions, please e-mail them to


Literacy Hints from the Hive

Practical and simple tips to foster a love of literacy in your child

Create a Braille-Rich Environment

Even before young children learn to read books, they learn the meaning of print symbols around them. In the article “A Review of Research on Environmental Print” published in the Journal of Instructional Psychology, the authors note that “…children explore the details of print in their environment, on signs, cereal packages and television advertisements. They have developed concepts about print in their environment and about books before they start their formal education.” (Kuby, Goodstadt-Killoran, Aldridge, and Kirkland, 1999) Just as sighted children have a print-rich environment, blind children need to have an abundance of Braille in their environment. As parents and educators, we need to surround blind children with Braille. They need to see Braille at home, school, and out in public. While this task may seem daunting, we can do a lot to expose young children to Braille.

  • Label objects at home for the child. Label the table, chair, refrigerator, sink, and any other objects the child encounters frequently. Label them with the name of the object. Then when your child goes to the object, such as the table, show the child the Braille and say “table.”

  • Label your child’s toys and books with his or her name in Braille so he/she can recognize it.

  • One way to make labels is to use dymo tape and a Braille labeler. You do not need to know Braille to use it. You can buy labeling tape and a labeler from the NFB Independence Market.

  • Buy magnetic Braille letters to put on the refrigerator. You can get them from Independent Living Aids, LLC.

  • Encourage your child’s teacher to label the child’s items in Braille at school. Kids’ names are all around the classroom in print. Your child should have the same in Braille.

  • Show your child the Braille you see in public. You can find Braille on ATMs, elevators, restroom doors, restaurant menus, and sometimes even tactile maps. Even if you don’t know what the Braille says, for example with the restaurant menus, your child can experience it through touch. Get in the habit of showing your child the Braille so he or she sees the meaning of using Braille in daily life.

“Research clearly shows that exposure to environmental print, even before formal education begins, contributes to early literacy.” (Kuby, Goodstadt-Killoran, Aldridge, and Kirkland, 1999) Blind children need access to Braille everywhere in their environment to increase early literacy skills and bring meaning to the dots under their fingers.

Sweet Sweet Braille

Read Jennifer Shields’s letter to President Obama that was published in the book, Let Freedom Ring: Braille Letters to President Barack Obama. She shows how learning Braille from a young age has helped her do schoolwork and will help her pursue her dreams of becoming a journalist.

Braille Bee Book Review
Each month we feature a Braille book review by a parent, a blind person, or a blindness professional. Is there a book you would like to review? Please send your review to This month’s review is by Natalie Shaheen, education program specialist for the NFB Jernigan Institute and former teacher of blind students.
Hunting for a Good Book? By Natalie Shaheen
As a teacher, one of my favorite books to read with my young blind students was Goin’ on a Bear Hunt retold and illustrated by Suzette Wright. This book is always popular with the children because the story is familiar. As an educator I like this book for a number of reasons. The predictable nature of the text allows students to start “reading along” even though they may not recognize the Braille characters under their fingertips. Another great feature of this book is the tactile graphics. The graphics are simple and introduce the children to symbolic representation. Throughout the book, the path the main character takes as he hunts for the bear is illustrated by a raised line. This line provides great tracking practice for beginning readers. The line is dynamic – when the main character falls in a ditch, the line creates a ditch, and when the character goes over a hill, the line follows suit. At the end of the book there is a fold-out tactile map of the whole adventure that can be used for enrichment lessons.

I’ll share some of the activities my students really enjoyed doing after reading this book. Acting out the story on the three-dimensional model I created was always a big hit. The model included all the elements in the book; there was real water in the river and even a swamp made from goop! The kids had a blast with the model and learned how three-dimensional concepts can be represented by two-dimensional graphics. This book is also great for sequencing. With tactile picture cards for each obstacle encountered throughout the adventure, students can put the cards in the correct order. It is important that young children develop the concepts of first, next, last, before, after, etc. early on. Children always enjoy telling their own stories; my students used to write and illustrate their own adventure with tactile graphics. The students got to pick the animal they were going to hunt for and what obstacles they would encounter along the way. I would help them Braille the words, and then they used their imagination and lots of craft materials to create tactile graphics. There are hundreds of other things you could do with this book, just use your imagination!

This book is available from the American Printing House for the Blind. The book is a little pricey at $44. If you do not want to purchase the book, you can check with your state library for the blind or even the library at the school for the blind in your state. If you can’t get a hold of the book, you could make your own story and personalize it for your child! 
Questions for the Queen Bee
1. How do I use the electronic reading log?
Download the electronic reading log from the NFB Braille Reading Pals Club Web site. After reading each day, take about thirty seconds to record the date, time read and title of book(s) read, and write a brief comment if necessary. This reading log is designed to help you keep track of how much time you’ve read with your child and to make notes about your child’s reactions to your reading.
2. My child only knows uncontracted Braille, but the books that I have are in contracted Braille. What shall I do?

Uncontracted Braille (sometimes called Grade 1) is simply the Braille letters. Contracted Braille is the Braille that your child will learn to do for his or her homework assignments. Many of the books for older pre-readers in this program are in contracted Braille. The contracted Braille has the same grammar symbols used in print; it has contractions and short-form words. Because contracted Braille is what your child will learn, go ahead and introduce your child to the book. You can read the story aloud to your child, and you can discuss it. Also, your child can read it, even if he or she doesn’t know all of the contractions. The child will be able to work on tracking and symbol recognition. The child may even learn some new contractions. Furthermore, there is some research published in the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness (JVIB) in the article “Acquisition of Literacy Skills by Young Children Who Are Blind: Results from the ABC Braille Study” suggesting that “…the introduction of contractions early in a student's reading process is associated with higher literacy performance later in the student's career.” (Emerson, Holbrook, and D'Andrea 2009)

Books for Busy Bees
Sighted children have access to print books all around them.  It is important to offer our blind children the same exposure.  Here are several sources for obtaining Braille books.
The Braille Storybook Resources page has a comprehensive list of sources for Braille books.

NFB ShareBraille
200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, MD 21230
(410) 659-9314
NFB ShareBraille is a free service that facilitates the exchange of Braille books through a community-run library.  Go online to trade your Braille books or to request books from other NFB ShareBraille users.

American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults (AAF)
Free Braille Books Program
200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
(410) 659-9314, extension 2361 * Fax (410) 659-5129

Selected popular children’s reading series (currently Jigsaw Jones Mystery® chapter books for grades 2-4; Matt Christopher sports books for grades 5 and up; Sampler set of chapter books from four different series including SpongeBob SquarePants®; Franny K. Stein; Mad Scientist; My Weird School; and Ready Freddy) are available free to blind children, teachers, libraries, etc. The books are mailed out every month so that blind children can have them at the same time that sighted children can buy the books in the bookstore.

NFB Independence Market
200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place

Baltimore, MD 21230

(phone: (410) 659-9314, ext. 2216
Fax: (410) 685-2340

The National Federation of the Blind Independence Market offers blindness-related literature, resources, and products as a service to individuals who are blind or experiencing vision loss, to their friends and families, and to the general public.

The NFB Braille Reading Pals Club is organized in partnership with the

National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC).
NFB Braille Reading Pals Club

Jernigan Institute, National Federation of the Blind

200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place, Baltimore, MD 21230
(410) 659-9314      Fax: (410) 659-5129      E-mail:

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