Sending Thank-You Notes to People (and dogs) Who Can't Read

November 28, 2008 • Posted in blindness, book tour, Braille, Uncategorized, visiting schools by

What a great audience!During school presentations, I show schoolkids how I read Braille. I tell them how I listen to books on tape. I explain how a talking computer works and describe the way I use a screen-reader to read email messages and check out newspaper articles online.

The kids learn I can’t read print. So when teachers ask them to write thank-you notes afterwards, some of them reason, (wisely, I might add) that they shouldn’t bother – Beth can’t read print, and neither can Hanni!

Truth is, Hanni and I honestly and sincerely do not need to be thanked for visiting classrooms. If anything, we should be thanking the kids — their enthusiasm and curiosity buoys us for days and weeks after each school visit. But okay, okay, I will admit it. I do enjoy hearing what the kids had to say about us after we’ve visited.

Teachers often email a thank-you, knowing I can use my talking computer to listen to the note. Sometimes those emails mention how the students are still talking about Hanni days after our visit –it’s gratifying! The class we visited at Washington Irving Elementary mailed a cassette — students recorded their thank-yous aloud. Their teacher told me it was hard to send the tape off to me — the kids liked reviewing it, they liked hearing their voices played over and over. And over. And over. They were reluctant to let the cassette go! When I visited my great-nephew Grant at Douglas MacArthur Elementary in Indianapolis, his class pasted gumdrops on a big sheet of heavy cardboard to spell out the words “THANK YOU” in Braille. When I read the card in front of the class, one of the gumdrops fell off – Hanni got a treat! And now this week Hanni and I are enjoying a new high-tech thank-you: Ms. Martin from Longfellow School wrote a blog post about our class visit last Tuesday, complete with video!

It’s fun to experience the creative ways teachers and kids come up with to thank us. And I still do appreciate getting notes the old-fashioned way, too – you cannot imagine how entertaining it can be to hear Mike read some of the handmade thank-you notes that come in the mail. What can I say – Mike just has a knack for describing crayoned illustrations! A packet from our visit to Baranoff Elementary School in Austin Texas includes a card from Andrew, who was my initial connection to that far-away class. I met Andrew at a White Sox game in Chicago last summer. Long story, and I’ll spare you the details. For this post, all you need to know is that Andrew drew an image of Hanni and me walking around the streets of Chicago: the Sears Tower, a factory, and what we think might be… a ballpark!

Many of the Austin thank-you notes said they liked that I was “funny.” I must say, a sense of humor does come in handy when hearing thank you notes from kids. My favorite card in the Austin batch came from a girl who wrote, “even if you weren’t blind, you wouldn’t see me because I was absent.” She still thanked Hanni and me for coming to her school.

Sandra Murillo On November 28, 2008 at 10:05 pm

Hi Beth,

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving! I think elementary students are the best (and sometimes funniest) audience when speaking about visual impairment. They don’t make a big deal about it, yet they are capable of conveying their curiosity through questions. I loved that note about the girl who was absent!


Liz On November 29, 2008 at 1:17 am

I teach my students to ALWAYS write thank-you notes — they help children learn that kindness deserves kindness in return.

Beth On November 29, 2008 at 4:33 pm

Sandra, yes, we did have a nice Thanksgiving, thanks for asking. In fact, I had intended on publishing this “Thank-You Note” post on Thanksgiving Day – you know, it had a “thanks” theme. We had such fun (even went to the State Street parade!) on thanksgiving Day, though, that I didn’t find time to blog. And in a funny way, that alone is something to be thankful for!

Marsha On November 29, 2008 at 10:32 pm

I was going to say “thanks” for mentioning Grant and his school your blog, but thought maybe that wouldn’t be necessary! Tee-Hee! Actually, Grant did get a kick out of it.

Jake On November 30, 2008 at 3:04 am

I’ve spoken to people before about my blindness. A few years ago I went with a friend and his mother to a school nearby to speak to a class of sixth-graders who were doing a project on people with special needs. My friend and I both spoke and we showed some stuff we use. My friend has cerebral palsy and his speech is sometimes difficult to understand, so his mother translated when needed. They brought along one of his wheelchairs and a rubber mat that holds stuff in place at meals or snacks. I brought along my cane of course, a Type n’ Speak which I used at the time, and some Braille books. The class was fascinated and asked some great questions, and a few days later we both received thank-you notes. Oh and I did bring along a manual Braille writer as well.

Beth On November 30, 2008 at 4:53 pm

Marsha, glad to hear Grant got a kick out of hearing his name on my blog post. Hope he also enjoyed hearing about our trip to his park on election day –GRANT Park!
Jake, do you still go to classrooms from time to time? Every once in a while Hanni and I get a request to visit a classroom but we are not available, I’d love to be able to suggest someone else. Sandra, maybe you still visit classrooms, too…?

Sandra Murillo On November 30, 2008 at 6:04 pm

ok! How did you know I’ve visited classrooms before? Actually I haven’t done it since my senior year at High School, but I do enjoy it a lot especially with elementary students! Once I had a fifth grader tell me “you’re my idal!” I was so moved at those words!


Tad Druart On December 1, 2008 at 3:54 pm

You deserve the thanks. Meeting you and “watching” the ball game with you has helped Andrew view his world differently. He’s always been a helpful and good y0ounf man, but he’s noticing things and people that were unknown to me at 8-years old. Most importantly he is thinking about how he can help make things better for people around him. He’s also pretty proud to have friends like Beth and Hanni to bring to school. He also thinks he has the best dad in the world, so you’re in good company. He loves his dog, Bodie, but admits he’s not nearly as helpful as Hanni.

The other cool thing is that it isn’t just the kids who learn. Beth is still chuckling over my telling her she needs a drivers license to get into the school. I have to admit knowing you has also changed and helped my perspective as well. I’m thankful I can call you my friend. Looking forward to another ball game in 2009.

Beth On December 1, 2008 at 4:12 pm

Aw, shucks. What a sweet comment. If I’m ranking right up there with Andrew’s dad, I know I’m in high places! Love the idea of a blind woman and her dog helping an 8-year-old “notice” more things. And yes, somehow I did manage to get into that elementary school without a driver’s license, imagine that!

Jenny On December 7, 2008 at 3:53 pm

Hi Beth. I loved that post, as I visit schools in my hometown in Ireland regularly, and more often since I got my guide dog O J.
I was in a school on friday and the children were so lovely. They loved my talking colour detector and put it on almost everything in the classroom! Their teacher gave me chocolates, and about 20 kids followed me to the car when I left the school.
Its nice to hear what you do when you visit schools as I am always thinking of ways to vary my presentations, so that I don’t get bored doing the same thing.
Are either of your books availible in Ireland do you know?

Caren On December 7, 2008 at 4:05 pm

I “feel” a new line of HooverInk stationery coming on….Thanks for the ideas.

Beth On December 7, 2008 at 4:12 pm

Jenny, What fun to hear from Ireland! I have dear friends in NORTHERN Ireland and have been there a few times — , a couple live in Belfast and another couple in Portaferry. They tell me the only way to get my books there is to order online, from amazon for example? I ended up shipping books to them directly to save them the trouble and would be willing to do that for you, too especially if you might share the children’s book with the kids you visit at schools. If you want t me to do that, go to my website and hit the “contact Beth” button to write me separately. Do you read Braille? If so I can send you the Braille edition, too, or have it sent to you from
After reading your comment I am wishing I had one of those color detectors, the kids must just love that!

Beth On December 7, 2008 at 4:58 pm

Caren, your note reminds me: I need to order more HooverInk cards! I love the way you put texture on the front of the ones I order, that way I can distinguish the front from the back. Keep up the good work!

Jenny On December 7, 2008 at 10:50 pm

Beth that would be brilliant i would really like copies. I’ll email you tomorrow from work as I’ll probably be very bored then.
Ireland is so cold at the minute, and trying to avoid ice with a guide dog isn’t much fun! I went to college in Belfast and sometimes wish I still lived there. Buncrana where I live now is just a two hour drive, so I go there a lot. Maybe you’ll visit Ireland again sometime?

Beth On December 8, 2008 at 1:34 am

Jenny, I certainly do plan to go back to Northern Ireland – and soon, I hope! You can read about two of my friends from there, I published a post about them while they were visiting in October:
I mention in that post that we went to hear a Black gospel choir on the south side of Chicago while Sheelagh and Beni were here, my friend Marcus leads that choir. Well, after meeting Sheelagh and Beni, he wants to go visit them in Northern Ireland – this Spring! Maybe Hanni and I will come along…?

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