NBP’s Quotation Booklets: A Valuable Teaching Tool Any Day of the Week

By Mary Drain

When I stumbled upon the first quotation booklet NBP published several years ago, I knew I had to have it. Pocket-sized and spiral-bound, the booklet was sure to offer some interesting food for thought, and in a convenient size to boot. What I did not know at the time was that this booklet, and those that followed, would prove to be a valuable teaching tool. They offered just the right amount of content for many of my students to transition successfully from my curriculum-driven sentences to the reading of their first official braille publication.

For students of any age, moving from learning braille to comfortably using braille is a process. Appreciating braille for its utility, grace, and for the many jobs it does better than any other tool comes later. As someone who grew up with a tremendous amount of usable vision, I had no difficulty accessing print using a minimal amount of magnification. Never mind that my eyes fatigued easily and my reading speed was quite slow. It was my TVI who had the good sense and foresight to insist that I learn braille. When I asked why, he said, “Because I want you to have options.”

Implicit in his response was a truth that I did not fully understand and embrace until I was much older. It is that achieving a level of proficiency with braille, audio, and, for some, magnification enables those of us who are visually impaired to choose the most efficient tool (or tools) for the task at hand, without ever having to compromise. As a braille teacher at the Orientation Center for the Blind in Albany, California, I feel fortunate to work alongside colleagues who share this point of view, and in a residential immersion training program that has our students working with these new tools of independence every day.

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Nearly all of my students, most of whom are newly blind, begin my class eager to regain their ability to read and write independently. Whether having the goal of using braille to label, read a recipe, refer to notes when giving a school or workplace presentation, or read a book someday, very few of my students have to be convinced of braille’s value. But, because learning braille more closely resembles the running of a marathon than a sprint, keeping my students motivated is not without its challenges. I am always mindful of proper pacing and the need for periodic pep talks.

For my students who have learned all of their contractions but need to continue to improve their reading, finding material that is both adult in nature and appropriate for their skill level has not always been easy. In the same way I would not throw a kid fresh out of driver’s training onto a busy L.A. street during rush hour, I’m careful not to give my students reading material that is likely to frustrate or overwhelm them. With an average of five single-spaced lines of braille on each page (along with the attribution), each of the quotations in the quotation booklets are presented in a manageable format. They offer a terrific way to introduce my adult students to published braille. I look forward to seeing NBP produce more materials like this in the future. Riddles or fun facts anyone?

It seems only fitting that I conclude with a quote from Andrew Carnegie. He said, “Anything worth having in life is worth working for.” I think we can all agree that this is certainly true when it comes to learning braille.


Mary Drain is one of ten credentialed teachers at the Orientation Center for the Blind. Operated by the California Department of Rehabilitation, the Orientation Center is a residential immersion program that offers classes in Orientation and Mobility, Adaptive Computer Training, Braille, Cooking, and Daily Living Skills to legally blind individuals who are clients of the California Department of Rehabilitation.


Free Online Activities Created Especially for YOU!

Great Expectations: Bringing Picture Books to Life for Blind Kids

For nearly four years, the Great Expectations program has produced original, high-interest, fun, and free activities especially for blind kids and their families. We start with a popular picture book, and add braille to it, so blind and sighted family members can read them together. But that’s just the beginning! From there, we use the book’s story, themes, and ideas to create a set of activities that enable blind kids to explore all aspects of the book in greater detail, through songs, tactile play, picture descriptions, body movement, engaged listening, arts and crafts projects, inspiring real-life stories, and much more. The goal is to promote active reading experiences for children with visual impairments.

Each book in the program explores a completely different topic, including some subjects that might seem difficult to broach with a visually impaired person. It might seem counterintuitive to talk about different colors and shades, for example, with a blind child. But of course colors are a part everyday life and conversation, and blind kids need to know as much about colors and their significance as any other kid in order to fully participate in their lives. With that mindset, we use popular kids’ books as the starting point for discussion, activities, and lots of fun.

Dragons Love Tacos, our first book in the series, gives us the chance to talk about textures, preparing food, and organizing a (taco) party.

The Day the Crayons Quit, perhaps our most popular series selection thus far, offers ideas for talking about colors with blind kids.

Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes is all about orientation and mobility, maps, and mazes.

Iggy Peck, Architect discusses building and buildings, architecture, and team work.

Amazing Grace focuses on theater, presentation, storytelling, and more.

And Measuring Penny delves into measuring, graphing, comparisons – and even what it takes to care for a pet!

Lemonade in Winter cover

With our newest book, Lemonade in Winter, we learn all about money and running a business from Pauline and her younger brother John-John as they open a lemonade stand in the middle of winter. By the end of the story, they’ve made less money than they spent on supplies, but learned some valuable lessons along the way. The free activities we’ve created to go with this print/braille book explore all aspects of money and business, and tease out some of the less obvious themes in the book, like teamwork and following directions. Here’s the full activity list for Lemonade in Winter:

Hands on Money

Don’t want to accidentally pay $20 for a $5 ice cream? Use your sense of touch to tell different coins apart and play fun games to practice making different coin combinations. Also learn folding techniques and technology options to keep track of your different paper bills.

Spend, Save, Share

Whether you get money as a gift or earn it by doing chores, you have several options for what to do with it. Learn reasons and strategies for spending, saving, and sharing, and then make your own spend, save, and share jars.

Spend, Save, and Share jars


Make an Origami Wallet

Looking for a fun and unique way to keep your money safe? Use a Japanese method of paper folding, called origami, to create your own, unique mini wallet.

Team Story Building

Pauline and John-John’s lemonade stand doesn’t yield the results they expected (selling tons of lemonade and making lots of money!), but they have fun anyway and learn that there’s more than one definition of success! Play a team story building game that shows how any new adventure can bring unexpected outcomes.

Giving and Following Instructions

When you teach a friend or sibling something new, it’s important to give good instructions. The opposite is also true! When you want to learn something new, it’s important to follow instructions well. Try the 10 Step Game, the Right Way to Make Slime activity, and the hilarious Exact Instructions Challenge to see how good you are at reading carefully and following directions.

Tips from a Blind Business Person

Meet Jessica Beecham, a blind business woman with a passion for making health and wellness accessible to everyone. Jessica was a founding member of the Sports and Recreation Division of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado; and is currently a co-founder and Program Director at a popular fitness company in Colorado called WE Fit Wellness. See what Jessica has to say about succeeding in the business world, and review Pauline and John-John’s lemonade stand business plan.

Jessica Beecham

Jokes Around the Lemonade Stand

Whether or not you run a lemonade stand, it never hurts to have a handful of jokes to add fun to the day. Here are more money jokes than you can count, and enough jokes about lemons to lift even the sourest mood.

Sing the Lemonade Song

Sing along with a song about making money at your lemonade stand and practice counting by units of 25 as you rake in the dough.

Picture Descriptions

Enjoy detailed descriptions of the illustrations in the book, all created especially for you!

TVIs, parents, and young students will discover fun ways to experience picture books on a deeper level with Great Expectations. Check out the website for dozens and dozens of FREE online activities!

Let us know which activities you tried out and what you enjoyed the most! And let us know what themes and concepts you’d like us to explore in the next book in the program!

Happy 209th Birthday, Louis Braille!

By Brian Mac Donald, President

January is Braille Literacy Month, and this year we celebrate 209 years since the birth of Louis Braille.

If he could only have seen the future of braille. As a young man and an educator, Louis was determined to push forward his tactile code of raised dots. He knew the potential it had for literacy, music and mathematics. Unfortunately, this six dot genius, like many famous artists, died before his work of art (braille) could ever be adopted or appreciated.

If Louis could look down from the heavens, he could see the honors and tributes for his legacy that have occurred worldwide. Statues, postage stamps, plays, musicals, commemorative coins in Belgium, India and the USA… and Asteroid 9969 Braille was named in his honor back in 1992. Encyclopedia Britannica even included him as one of the top 100 inventors of all time.

Louis would have been thrilled to see the millions of pages of braille that National Braille Press produces every year, and as an educator he would have marveled at the simplicity of transparent braille pages we created for our children’s braille print books We believe that as an inventor, Louis would certainly appreciate the chance to get his hands on a refreshable braille display!

Throughout the years, many intellectual luminaries have recognized the vital role that braille literacy plays in equality for blind individuals. In 1952, prominent poet T.S. Eliot wrote an essay called Some Thoughts on Braille. Eliot said that poetry was meant to be heard and read, and he said that one’s appreciation for poetry would be limited if there wasn’t access to the printed word. He mentioned that the ability to read independently allowed a person to be intimate with a poem. Eliot said that he was “thankful for the invention of braille as a tool to enable the blind to be able to read to themselves as well as be read to.”

As NBP rings in 2018, one of the resolutions we have is to advocate harder than ever for the future of braille. We want children and adults to understand the freedom, potential, and independence that braille can provide for the rest of their lives. We will continue to make the most affordable, high quality braille materials possible for children and adults. . Like Louis, we will be as determined as ever to find solutions for low-cost digital tactile graphics and e-braille to keep braille connected to the digital world in every way.

Gala Highlights and Other Adventures: Repost from Honorary Trustee Erik Weihenmayer’s blog

Original post here: http://www.touchthetop.com/blog/east-coast-visit-retracing-steps

Last week I flew to the East Coast for a sensational meeting with Paychex in Rochester, NY.  My friend and America’s Got Talent finalist, Mandy Harvey, joined me and wowed the crowd with her pitch-perfect voice. It was a No Barriers day for sure!


From there I met up with my longtime friend, Mike O’Donnell and headed to Boston to attend the National Braille Press Gala. The NBP has been doing vital work providing braille materials to the blindness community and promoting literacy for 90 years.

My personal experience with Braille made a huge impact on my education. I fought learning it at first, not wanting to give into blindness, but ultimately found it an invaluable tool when trying to interpret graphs, scientific charts, spread sheets, math equations, maps, etc. I also loved reading to my kids from Braille children’s books. The active tactile engagement that Braille provides is crucial for blind kids and I’m so grateful for organizations like NBP.

Comedian and Daily Show correspondent, Roy Wood Jr., performed at the gala, and at the conclusion stated, he didn’t know much about blindness before this event but he was so inspired he was personally donating $1,000 to the cause. Thanks to folks like Roy and committed sponsors like Cabinets to Go. NBP raised more than $350,000 in funds so thousands of blind kids will be able to read their books in Braille.

Despite my still healing finger, I couldn’t leave New England without making a trip to North Conway, NH for some rock climbing. In fact, the first place I ever went climbing was North Conway, when I was 16 years old, part of the Carroll Center for the Blind’s recreational program. Knowing blind kids were left out of ball sports in their schools, they’d take us on weekend adventures – canoeing, ropes courses, tandem bike rides – but the climbing trip to New Hampshire was it for me.

I owe a lot to my first instructors, Marc Chauvin, a renowned rock climber who later worked for the American Guides Association, helping develop their rock guides program, and Nick Yardley, a British rock and ice climber certified as an AMGA rock guide.

Now 32 years later, I was retracing my first steps after going blind and discovering that I could navigate my way up vertical terrain with just the use of my hands and feet as eyes. Mike and I met an old friend, Alden Pellett, and together we revisited many of the classics on Cathedral Ledge, a 500 foot granite face with tons of variety: face climbing, finger and hand cracks, and even lieback flakes. On the way up to the wall, we ascended steep trails covered in crisp piles of fallen leaves. Mike said the peak foliage was brilliant orange, red, and yellow, and the air was a perfect 68 degrees – the kind of autumn weather that makes you love New England.

Braille Photo Contest Recap: Spotlight on Hadley Institute

One of NBP’s goals in 2017 was to create more engagement with braille readers around the world. One way we’ve been doing this is through braille-themed contests. Back in March, we held our first ever photo contest: “Braille Around the World”. We wanted to see where our readers like to enjoy their braille books. During the process, we got a call from Susan Fisher at Hadley School for the Blind, who described how some of her adult braille students were very excited about the contest.

“I was excited to learn about the braille photo contest as it offered my students the opportunity to share their exciting and unique stories. Braille means independence and literacy. The braille photo contest allowed the students to promote braille from their own perspective. I’m so pleased that two of my students entered the contest and did such a fine job.

As a braille instructor at the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired, I run a one-hour phone ‘chat’ group that meets once each week. During our discussions, students offer tips and tricks, as well as share their joy and frustration, while learning to read and write braille. I shared the information about the braille photo contest with the group so that they could tell others of their braille accomplishments in a fun and creative way.

Sue Brasel

Sue Brasel’s submission

Sue Brasel entered the contest for ‘the fun of it.’ Sue likes to challenge herself and wanted to see if she could write a poem showing off the town where she lives. Sue points out that the photo of her reading braille next to the creek in her town shows her using her sense of touch while reading braille as well as her senses of smell and hearing.

Elizabeth Motter Salinas

Clarice Cocco’s submission

Clarice Cocco was motivated to enter the contest to show others how she marks her crochet hooks. Clarice knows that braille has given her the ability to organize and be independent. With braille, Clarice is now able to enjoy life using her sense of touch. Clarice feels it is important to find things she can do without asking for assistance. With braille marks on her crocheting hooks, she can now do just that!”

This story and many others inspired NBP to continue doing contests through our social media outlets. NBP has announced that we will be hosting our first Poetry Contest for all ages! The contest runs through October 31, 2017. Learn more at the following link: http://www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/newsmedia/index.html?id=oYRhw4kW