Happy Birthday! (Or should I say "Bon Anniversaire!"),

January 4, 2015 • Posted in Beth Finke, Braille, parenting a child with special needs, Uncategorized, visiting schools, Writing for Children by

Today, January 4, is the birthday of Louis Braille. He was born in France in 1809, and his father had a leather shop. Note to children: be careful out there! Three-year-old Louis lost his sight after playing with his father’s sharp tools and accidentally poking his eyes.

Louis Braille’s parents did what they could to give their son a normal life. He was the best student in his school, and he became an accomplished organist and cellist. When he was 15, he simplified an idea that had been used in the French army to send messages that soldiers could read in the dark, encoding individual letters rather than sounds. He represented each letter by a different arrangement of six dots packed close enough that each letter could be read by a single fingertip.

Today, reading and writing of Braille is something of a dying art. There are now far more audio versions of books than there are books printed in Braille, and there are software programs to convert written text into audio. Today fewer than 20 percent of blind children in this country learn to read Braille. Technology is cool, but how will these children ever learn to spell correctly? How will they know where to put commas, quotation marks, paragraph breaks and so on? I didn’t lose my sight until I was 26 years old, so I was fortunate to learn all of that when I could still read print. I’m not proficient in Braille now, but the little I know sure comes in handy when I want to confirm what floor I’m on when I get off an elevator or to label CDs, file folders and buttons on electronic devices at home.

S & S

You blog readers out there who have a print copy of Hanni And Beth: Safe & Sound on your bookshelf should pat yourself on the back. You know a good children’s book when you see it, and your purchase has helped create more Braille books for children: My publisher, Blue Marlin Publications donates a portion of the proceeds from sales of every print version of Safe & Sound to Seedlings Braille Books for Children, a small non-profit organization in Michigan that provides high quality, low cost Braille books for children.

Over the past seven years, Blue Marlin Publications has Seedlings Logodonated thousands of dollars to Seedlings.

By producing Braille books for children, Seedlings helps promote “literacy for the blind,” providing visually impaired children equal opportunity to develop a love of reading. Safe & Sound is one of the books available in Braille from Seedlings, which means I’ve been able to read parts of the book aloud at the presentations I’ve been doing since Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound was published in 2007.

To find out how to order a copy of Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound in Braille, or to donate to Seedlings to help them create more books in Braille for kids, link to www.seedlings.org. Every ten dollar donation makes another Braille book possible.

The Empty Pen On January 4, 2015 at 4:14 pm

I gave your book to my friend’s children this Christmas (all are sighted). It came with a bookmark that had the ABCs in Braille. My friend told me her son quizzed her all morning on the letters.

bethfinke On January 4, 2015 at 7:03 pm

Thanks for letting me know –I’ve discovered during visits to elementary schools that kids are fascinated by Braille, so I try to put a brailed bookmark in every book we sell. I don’t always remember, though! I’ve


bethfinke On January 4, 2015 at 7:04 pm

PS: Seedlings sells Braille bookmarks, too, in case anyone out there is interested —


brailleerin On January 4, 2015 at 11:08 pm

I beg to differ that braille is a dying art. For my blind daughter, we have a Bluetooth refreshable braille display that instantly converts any electronic book, email or web site into braille.

Parents are networking via bogs and listservs to learn how to advocate for braille for their blind and low vision children. Both the NFB and ACB are working hard to promote braille.

Braille is thriving and alive in the 21st century!

bethfinke On January 5, 2015 at 8:46 am

Oh, so glad you weighed in, BrailleErin. I am a fan of Braille, was just using the statistics to claim it is a dying art. I stand corrected!


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