“Happy Birthday, Louis Braille”

Today is World Braille Day — on Louis Braille’s birthday. Celebrating reminds us the importance of accessibility and independence for people who are blind or visually impaired. And, celebrating also reminds us to recognize an incredible inventor and teacher.

Louis Braille was only 3 years old when he had an accident with one of his father’s saddler tools. As a result, he was completely blind at age 5. Louis attended one of the first blind schools in the world, the Royal Institution for Blind Youth in Paris, and at age 12, he learned Captain Charles Barbier’s night writing system.

When only 15 years old and finding Barbier’s system too complicated, Louis was inspired to come up with a system of his own. He created a system of raised dots within a six-dot cell. Almost 200 years later, Braille’s system continues to be used all over the world.

I’ll read Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille (Jen Bryant/Boris Kulikov) to my Kinder kids and we’ll discuss his life and his extraordinary contribution to our world. Then we’ll watch Learning Braille at Jenkins Elementary.

We’ll also discuss our eyes — how they see light and then they send a message to our brains about what we see. And while my kids can’t truly understand blindness, they’ll experience what it’s like to have their sense of sight impaired for a short period of time. Wearing blindfolds, they’ll try to build block towers. Afterward, we’ll extend our use of the blindfolds by having them feel someone’s face and trying to guess who it is.

Continuing to use only our sense of touch, we’ll compare and contrast pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. Then I’ll pass around a bag of 10 coins. Nine coins (seven pennies and two nickels) will have smooth edges and one coin (a dime) will be ridged. They’ll try to find and identify the coin that is ridged. Then we’ll try to identify the nickels.

During circle time, I’ll guide the kids in reflective thinking by incorporating, “I used to think…, but now I think…” This routime encourages them to explore how their thinking has changed, and helps them to develop their reasoning abilities.

Louis Braille said, “Braille is knowledge, and knowledge is power.”

Thank you, Mr. Braille. And, Happy 211th Birthday.