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Brailled versions of "My Heart Fills With Happiness".

Printbraille Pilot Project gives accessible reading materials to kids

The TD Summer Reading Club (TDSRC) is Canada’s biggest bilingual summer reading program. It offers a variety of fun reading-related activities to keep children reading all summer long! The CNIB Foundation has been working with the TDSRC for years to provide audio and braille books as well as Notebooks, so that students who are blind or partially sighted are able to participate in this public library program. As a result of this partnership, TD turned to us when they realized their TD Grade One Book Giveaway, organized by the Canadian Children's Book Centre, was not yet accessible to braille readers.

In 2019, the TD Grade One Book Giveaway gave out approximately 550,000 print copies of "My Heart Fills With Happiness" by Monique Gray Smith to Grade 1 students across the country. For the first time, thanks to the CNIB Foundation, this also included 14 copies in printbraille, as a pilot project.

Karen Brophey, Central Programs Team Lead for Literacy, worked to coordinate the delivery of these books. After speaking with teachers and staff at the schools of the 14 students, Karen realized that most of them had extremely limited access to any accessible literature at their schools. As a result, Karen decided that more needed to be done and the Printbraille Pilot Project was born!

This fall, the CNIB Foundation utilized funds provided by Adler & Lipkus Foundation to equip the school libraries of each of these 14 students with eight additional printbraille books. As well, we provided a suite of braille and tactile materials for the teacher or itinerant teacher to use to engage the student in the classroom. This kit will include:

  • a bedazzled braille alphabet poster
  • a velcro braille/jewel sign board
  • a set of braille alphabet magnets
  • a dymo braille labeller – so that non-braille users (i.e., regular classroom teacher) can label lockers, cubbies, supply shelves, doors, etc.
  • simulated braille activity sheets.

In addition, CNIB Foundation and Vision Loss Rehab staff will be hand-delivering these books and materials, so they can give a brief presentation and demo to the schools, which are located in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario (which includes one French set).

Harper is a Grade 1 student who will participating in this pilot project at Cranston School in Calgary. His itinerant teacher, Angela, says Harper can’t wait!

“This grade 1 boy uses braille every day as a young person who is blind. It is exciting that the school and the student will get to take advantage of these amazing resources… He already knows that braille equals reading and writing to him," says Angela.

Rosie Z, an Independent Living Specialist with Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada, also recognizes the value of this program and hopes to see it extended in the future.

“I work with a child who would love to have braille at his school," she says. "He just loves books thanks to his family, but is unable to select any at his school. His mom has told me that they would be thrilled to get braille books into Keaton’s school. As it is, he has to ask people what the book titles are and bring them home for us to read to him. That’s not accessibility.”

The CNIB Foundation is excited to be launching the Printbraille Pilot Project this fall in 14 schools across the country. Printbraille copies of the TD Grade One Book Giveaway title are also available at key CNIB offices and Hubs.