Welcome back to Blind Intuition. From the time I was a little girl, I remember being read to by my parents, relatives, teachers and read along cassettes. I loved reading and making up my own imaginary worlds books took me into. I still love to read and be read to, diving into someone else’s life for a bit. Imagine if print media was taken away… You can’t read a book, a sign, the newspaper, internet or a magazine. Sure, there are audio books and screen readers, but for me it isn’t enough. I wanted Archer to experience books the way I had as a child. I wanted him to develop a love for reading, however after I went legally blind, I wasn’t sure how I would facilitate this and make sure he wasn’t missing out. Read the post here about the challenge I faced being unable to read the print in Archer’s world. 12 months on, I have found my answers. It is a different story now, and I believe Archer is thriving in the world of books. He can’t get enough of looking at and reading books. Here is how I did it:
1. I learnt to read Grade 1 Braille
Through Vision Australia, I learnt to read Grade 1 Braille by correspondence with the idea that I could get Archer’s books brailled so I can read to him without straining my eyes. I believe braille is so very important because it provides access to print media for people who are blind or have low vision. Being a trained teacher, I am worried about literacy rates going down in blind children with many parents believing that technology is now diminishing the need for braille. I beg to differ. If a child who is read to from the time they are born, is able to see what a word and sentence looks like on a page, they have had a good head start. A blind child, may not be able to see words on a page, however if they are exposed through touch and sound, it is a good start. How can blind children learn sentence structure, grammar spelling and punctuation through just hearing alone? It baffles me, and it is an area I want to look further into in the future.
Back on topic, I learnt braille. I can now read basic braille enough to get by with reading to Archer. I joined up with Vision Australia’s Feelix Library, which provides brailled children’s literature to blind and low vision children. We receive a suitcase in the mail which contains a brailled children’s picture book, and audio cd, a tactile handmade book that relates to the brailled book. For example if the book is about a caterpillar, the handmade book will have a hand made version of what a caterpillar feels like in 3D. It also comes with a toy to go with the book. While these resources are predominantly for blind children, they are a great resource for blind parents with fully sighted children. Archer loves receiving these suitcases in the mail.
2. I have collected many books with large print I can read.
I am lucky enough to have some functional vision to make out large print books. Black print on a white background is best. Archer enjoys Spot the Dog, Maisy Mouse and Dear Zoo. These books also have bright and simple illustrations in them that are easy for me to make out. Category books with pictures are great for me. While I may not be able to see the words written underneath the picture, the picture is enough for me to work it out. Archer has a book Called Moo by Matthew Van Fleet with photos of farm animals by Brian Stanton. The book has pop ups, tactile and touchy feely spots and flip out pages. It is a great book for Archer and I. Sometimes we get his play animals out from his farm set and match them up and talk in their language. There are many other great category books around and you don’t have to pay a fortune for them.
3. I have collected repetitive books
Repetitive books for me are easy for me to remember off by heart. For example – the That’s Not My Bunny, Dog and many more series. These books are touchy feely so I can work out what it says as they are very repetitive. Archer loves these books and we probably read them half a dozen times in a row.
4. I have collected audio books, read along and sing along books
The audio books will be used when he is older and can follow along, as well as the read along. I can’t help myself and just grab them if I see them. We do use the sing along books often and he is beginning to do some actions. We have a nursery rhyme book with well known nursery rhymes in it with a corresponding button to press for that page which is another way we can read together.
Cameron reads to Archer regularly. Often we sit on the couch with the three of us and I will listen too. Eventually I just know the book off by heart. I have always had a good memory with things like that. Cameron will often help me out if I am reading to Archer. Other family members know how important reading is to me so will read Archer a story if he wants it.
Archer goes to Day Care once a week for socialising and to give me a break. He gets read to there. I have also taken him to story time at the local library and will start taking him to Play Group this year. Now that people know our circumstances, they are all to happy to help.
7. I make it up
If Archer grabs a book I can’t read, I make it up. He won’t be able to tell while he can’t read so what he doesn’t know doesn’t hurt. Sometimes I feel this way is the best fun. Even when he can read, I will still encourage this.
I really feel relaxed about reading to Archer now. In the beginning I was stressing myself out thinking that I will learn by rote all his books. I quickly learnt I am not super mum and this is impossible and takes time away from what is really important. I really enjoy reading to him and he just loves being read to, being told made up stories and having lots of cuddles.
If you come across any large print books, books with great pictures, please let me know via my Facebook page. I am going to create a resource section soon and would love to include a list of books that have been great for me and the blind and low vision parents.