The Braille Literacy Crisis in America

Earlier this week I received a press release from the National Federation of the Blind that I wanted to share.


An astounding 90 percent of blind people today are Braille illiterate. This would be viewed as a national outrage if the same crisis faced sighted individuals, and yet blind people continue to be deprived of the Braille education and resources they need to obtain jobs, pursue stimulating careers, and enjoy the same opportunities as sighted individuals. Further, Braille illiteracy is the leading contributor to a shocking 70 percent unemployment rate among 1.3 million blind Americans and it’s only going to get worse – 70,000 people are losing their sight each year.

To help fund Braille literacy programs, the NFB has teamed with the U.S. Mint to issue the first coin ever to feature readable Braille.  The Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar will be launched this Thursday, March 26, 2009 at the NFB’s headquarters in Baltimore, MD, after which the coin will be available for purchase. 

Every coin sold will support Braille education nationwide and ensure that every blind American enjoys the same opportunities for success as sighted individuals. Note, only 400,000 coins will be minted and available for order at until December 31, 2009.

The National Federation of the Blind is also publishing a report to the nation, titled “THE BRAILLE LITERACY CRISIS IN AMERICA: Facing the Truth, Reversing the Trend, Empowering the Blind”.  The report, a comprehensive overview of the crisis and proposed solutions to reverse it, will be posted online on the launch day on March 26, at and

Why is there a Braille literacy crisis? 
As addressed in National Federation of the Blind’s just released “Braille Crisis in America – A Report to the Nation,” there are a number of factors that have led to Braille illiteracy in America, including:

    1. Negative attitudes and false beliefs that Braille is “slow,”  “unusual” and too complicated to learn
    2. Misguided notions that technological advances have become a viable substitute for Braille
    3. Limited access to quality instruction today
    4. Lack of standardized Braille teaching methods and credentialed instructors

What must be done to solve this crisis?                                                                                 

The NFB’s cutting edge research training center– the NFB Jernigan Institute– has launched a national Braille Literacy Campaign to double the number of school-age children reading Braille by 2015.

To help us achieve this goal and fund the campaign, we are partnering with the U.S. Mint to launch a coin with a special mission – the Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar– available to everyone by the U.S. Mint starting March 26th in honor of the 200th birthday of Louis Braille. 

This stunning, one-of-a-kind collectible in 90% silver is the first U.S. coin in history to feature readable Braille, and marks a turning point for blind people of all ages. Money raised through the coin’s sale and matched dollar for dollar through other fundraising activities will support our Braille Literacy Campaign and literally change the future for tens of thousands of blind people.

How will the funds raised by the coin help blind Americans and increase Braille literacy? 
This Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar symbolizes the most significant investment in literacy for the blind.  While pressure from consumers and advocacy groups has led thirty-three states to pass legislation mandating that children who are legally blind be given the opportunity to learn Braille, more can be done.

Through its sale we hope to raise upwards of $8 million to:

    • Increase access to Braille instruction and reading materials
    • Expand Braille mentoring, reading-readiness and outreach programs
    • Require national certification in literary Braille among all special education teachers
    • Advance the use of Braille in current and emerging technologies
    • Research new methods of teaching and learning Braille
    • Enact legislation in all 50 states requiring special education teachers of blind children to obtain and maintain the National Certification in Literary Braille by 2015.
    • Make Braille resources more available through online sharing of materials, enhanced production methods, and improved distribution.

Why should I care about the coin? 
Each of us has a right to literacy. Every purchase of this one-of-a-kind commemorative coin will help reverse Braille illiteracy and ensure that every blind American enjoys the same opportunities for success as sighted individuals. When the blind can read, the blind can achieve so much more.


Also, be sure to connect with NFB online: 





Slice of Life #26

Walking into the copy room this morning to run off a non-fiction article for our reading mini-lesson, I groaned.  The all-too-familiar red light was blinking.  Red=bad.  And the bad can be anything.  Maybe it needs paper.  Or it’s jammed. Or thinks it’s jammed.  Or just wants to stop copying.  Whatever it is, it means a good 5-10 minutes attempting to make the copier work while the clock moves closer and closer to the students arriving.  

As I stood in the small, cramped copy room I contemplated my options.  Should I attempt to figure out what was wrong?  Or should I walk all the way to the other side of the school and wait on line for the only other copier in school.  Where I was sure every other teacher would be.  A quandary that teachers all over the country face everyday.

I decided to take on the copier.  Thanks to my time in the classroom, I feel like I could qualify as a certified copier repairwoman.  Plus, I have long, skinny arms that actually reach into the depths of the copier.

One Shot: Over the Fence Great Book Rec- Hot Books in My Classroom

Chasing Ray suggested that we break up the end of winter doldrums by highlighting a book that we loved.  In her post, she gives the image of leaning “over the fence” to tell your neighbor about that fantastic book you just read. In my head, I pictured leaning over one of my student’s desks and whispering about that book that I just read and know they will love, while the rest of the class is in the reading zone.  So, I decided to take my Over the Fence post in a slightly different direction- highlighting the books my students are reading right now that didn’t necessarily get the starred reviews or the blogosphere raves.  But the are books my students are reading and talking about, and I love them!  So here is my latest installment of Hot Books in my Classroom: Over the Fence Edition.

Tween romance novels are all the rage in my room, and the girls in my homeroom are devouring each novel before passing it their group of friends.  The latest favorite? Don’t Die, My Love by Lurlene McDaniel. I remember my McDaniel stage- it drove my mother nuts. She couldn’t understand why I wanted to read so many books about kids my own age dying of terminal illnesses. But because I went through that stage, I totally understand why my girls can’t put Don’t Die, My Love down. It’s full of romance, star-crossed teens, and you know the one of the main characters is going to die. It’s the perfect recipe for tweens. Plus, no matter what the books always have an uplifting and positive message at the end.

While a lot of my girls are passing around Lurlene McDaniel, a group of my boys are currently sharing Ten True Tales: Stories from Iraq.  (I can’t find it online, so it may just be available through Scholastic.)  Every story in this non-fiction book is taken from interviews with men and women who have served in Iraq.  War stories are a huge hit in my room and this one really attracts a lot of my boys because it is so timely.  And when they can’t get their hands on this one, they are reading Guys Write for Guys Read: Boys’ Favorite Authors Write About Being Boys.  The short stories from the author’s remind them of Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka, which they loved.  Short stories, specifically memoirs, are really popular with my boys this year.

At this point in the year, my students are usually comfortable making recommendations to me, too.  This week, two of my girls highly recommended two of Nora Raleigh Baskin’s book, which I hadn’t read.  They are reading What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows and In the Company of Crazies. Coincidentally, I had just picked up Anything But Typical at the bookstore and decided to add it to my wishlist. I didn’t make the author connection until my students’ made their recommendations! Now I am looking forward to reading all three books (when they are done with the first two!)  I love when my students lean over the fence and make their recommendations; it continues to build that reading community that I work so hard to build and maintain each year!

Really, over the fence recommendations are my bread and butter in the classroom.  Whether I am the one making the recommendation, or it’s being done student-to-student, or if a student is making the recommendation to me- word of mouth propels every book choice in my classroom until students are comfortable with their own choices.  And even then, they are constantly sharing books with each other and with me.  It’s awesome!

Slice of Life #25

When my fiance’ said he needed to get gas and run to the drugstore after work, I volunteered to go with him.  But because he was working late, that meant I couldn’t start dinner until almost 8pm.  Because I love American Idol and Lost, that was not going to work for me.

“We can pick up dinner”, my fiance’ texted me.

Hmmm, I thought.  That would be easier.  But where could we pick up dinner cheap and easy?  As I went through the list of local restaurants in my head, I was stumped.  Then I remembered- Ibby’s Falafel! We had gone once, months ago, and loved it.  For some reason, we hadn’t made it back.  As I remembered the falafal and sandwiches we had last time, my mouth began to water.  Definitely.  It was a perfect night for Ibby’s.

Slice of Life #24

To Do List at School Today:

  1. Pick up four historical fiction picture books from the school media center for reading lesson on taking notes with FQR sheets.
  2. Run off preposition phrases packets.
  3. Find do-now.
  4. Conference with team about the plans for the day.
  5. Teach- homeroom, grammar, review research paper due tomorrow, reading lesson, independent reading, writing lesson about attacking NKASK explanatory prompts with the better-answer hamburger.
  6. Lunch.  Laugh, gossip, gripe with colleagues.
  7. Pick up Scholastic order.
  8. Repeat #5 for afternoon class.
  9. Prep- finish memoir rubric, run-off poetry packets, type of list of books needed for Holocaust/WWII book clubs, check mail.
  10. Pick up students.
  11. Review HW board, remind students to clear desks and keep chairs down for desk cleaning after school, make list of volunteers for the TV studio.
  12. Go home and relax!

Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty

A few years ago I picked up the first book in a new series, called Sloppy Firsts: A Novel. Within the first few pages I had completely fallen in love with Jessica Darling and Marcus Flutie. And the fact that the story was set only a few minutes from my house on the Jersey Shore only made it better!  I immediately devoured the rest of the books and waited impatiently for the remaining books in the series.  When I came home a few days ago and found the final book in the series, Perfect Fifths: A Novel, on my doorstep, I was ecstatic! At first, I couldn’t bring myself to read it; the sooner I read it, the sooner it would be over. But I finally started it on my train ride home on Saturday, between Penn Station and my hometown station in the suburbs of Jersey (I thought it was appropriate, given the NYC and NJ settings of the books).

In a marathon reading session, I finished it.  And loved it.

Fans of McCafferty’s series will love this concluding chapter in the lives of Jessica Darling and Marcus Flutie.  Without spoiling it for anyone, I will say that the ending will leave fans very satisfied.  Taking place over only a few hours and told through both Jessica and Marcus’s eyes, this is a phenomenal story of love, friendship, and Barry Manilow.  Yes, I said Barry Manilow.  (I’ve had a playlist of his greatest hits on shuffle in my head since finishing the book!)

I will admit that I was at first unsure- really, hearing the story in Marcus’s voice?  I love Jessica and her voice rings so true.  That’s probably because I sometimes think Jessica is me!  But my fears were immediately assuaged when I read the first part from Marcus.  Actually, I believe my immediate reaction was, “Why has he not gotten his say this whole time?  I love him!”  The man is just dreamy.  I can’t say any more than that.

Like I said before, the story takes place over a few short hours, but boy does McCafferty make use of those hours!  We get to see both sides of the conversations between Jessica and Marcus, which is awesome.  I was cringing with embarrassment for them at some points while cheering them on at other points.  And the senryu’s written between them are just amazing.  My heart was pitter-pattering as I read them.  I still have goosebumps, which were only exacerbated by the ending.

Perfect Fifths: A Novel will be out on April 14th and you need to preorder it now.  It’s that good!  And on April 14th I will definitely be at the Princeton Barnes and Noble to see Megan McCafferty at her signing!


*this is a YA novel, and usually marketed as adult.  Not for middle grade readers!

Slice of Life #23

Tonight I made one of my favorite recipes for dinner and decided it would make a great slice of life.  

Gingery Marinated Beef Cubes Recipe


  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced (including tops) .
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless beef sirloin or top round beef or boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 3/4-inch cubes .
  • 1/4 c soy sauce .
  • 5 tbsps oil .
  • 1 tsp vinegar .
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds .
  • lettuce leaves (optional) .
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced .
  • 1 tsp sugar .
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne .
  • 2-3 tsps minced fresh ginger

  • Toast sesame seeds in a small frying pan over med-heat/flame, shaking pan frequently until golden (about 3 mins).
  • In a bowl, onions, sugar, garlic, mix sesame seeds, ginger, vinegar, soy, cayenne & 1 T. of the oil.
  • Add meat, stirring to coat.
  • Cover up & put in the fridge for at least 2 hrs or until the next day.
  • Heat 2 more T of the oil in a wide frying pan over high heat.
  • Add meat, half at a time, stirring, and cook until done to your liking when cut (about 2 mins for medium doneness).
  • Repeat with remaining meat, adding remaining oil as needed.
  • Serve with rice and steamed broccoli for a delicious meal!