The Gift of Reading: the Louis Braille Story
The Gift of Reading: the Louis Braille Story
Many of us take the act of seeing for granted. In fact, we take many of our senses for granted. This writer believes that if you are able to read this text, then you are using your sense of sight to process the words on the page. What about those that cannot see, how do they read? Many of us are aware of the process of reading for the blind known as Braille. In this paper, I will tell the story of one courageous man, Louis Braille; who used his creativity and determination to produce a system of reading for the blind that still in use today. Louis' Childhood
On a cold, snowy January day in 1809, in the little French town of Coupvray, a child was born. In a little stone house, the local harness maker, Simon René Braille, his wife Monique, and their growing family welcomed their fourth son, Louis ("Duxbury Systems -- Louis Braille and the Braille system". (n.d.). para. 2). Louis loved visiting his father in his harness making shop and often played there while his father set about his daily chores. As Simon was the only harness maker in town, he was a busy man. It was difficult to keep track of the bright, inquisitive little Louis and often the child was left to his own devices. Ultimately, this inquisitiveness would lead to changing the young boy's life. Intrigued by the day to day business in his father’s harness shop, Louis often stood by to watch his father work leather into harnesses in his blacksmith’s shop. At the age of three, Louis decided to try his own hand at his father’s craft. Such tools were not appropriate for a child of three. During his amateur attempt, Louis stabbed himself in the eye with a sharp tool, rendering him blind. His family sought out medical help, but in 1812, medical resources were rather primitive. Despite the best medicine available, the child developed an infection in his wound. Soon thereafter, the infection spread to his other eye, leaving the boy without sight in both eyes. Although his inquisitive nature caused his blindness, it would be this same inquisitive nature that would help the boy to triumph over his subsequent tragedy (Bickel, 1988, Chapter 1). Louis’ new village priest, Father Palluy met Louis and realized how bright he was. Father Palluy soon became Louis’ tutor. They knew with encouragement, his superior learning abilities and perseverance would allow him to grow into an accomplished young man. This was very progressive for the time as people with such handicaps were not assumed to become fully functioning citizens. Children with such issues were often relegated and put away in residential homes; hidden away from the public. The initial assumption was that such a child would not prosper, so Louis was placed in the back of the room with hopes he might learn something from listening to the lectures. Much to everyone's surprise, he was soon leading the class. It became obvious that Louis was not going to let his blindness hold him back. Louis attended the village school for 3 years. During this time, he was not able to gain knowledge traditionally through sight-reading. He yearned for more. In her biography, Barbara O’Connor speaks of Louis’ non-standard way of learning, saying: “The other village children sat in the schoolhouse and learned their science from books. But Louis learned by using his keen senses. Falling leaves, smelling flowers, and listening closely to birdsongs were all part of his science lessons” (O’Connor, 1997, para. 18). By the age of ten, young Louis was given a scholarship to attend the esteemed Royal Institute for the Blind Youth in Paris, France. He arrived carrying a wooden cane carved by his father, to help him gain independence in ambulation. This school was the only school for the blind in France at the time. There, he was instructed most often orally as the school had few books printed for the blind. What books there...
References: Bickel, L. (1988). Triumph over darkness : the life of Louis Braille (1st ed.). London, England: Unwin Hyman.
Duxbury Systems -- Louis Braille and the Braille system. (n.d.). Retrieved from http:/www.duxburysystems.com/braille.asp
Louis Braille. (2009). In A. K. Benson (Ed.), Inventors and inventions (Vol. 3). Pasadena, CA: Salem Press.
Mellor, M. C. (2006). Louis Braille: A touch of genius. Boston, MA: National Braille Press.
O’Connor, B. (1997). The World at His Fingertips: A Story about Louis Braille. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Lerner Publishing Group.
Roblin, J. (1952). Early research. In The reading fingers; life of Louis Braille, 1809-1852 (1st ed.). New York, NY: American Foundation for the Blind.
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