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Model Different Approaches to Reading

John Walsh, Parent, Blind River, Ontario

Editor's Note: Family Support Coordinator, Jean Robinson, with Visually Impaired Outreach here at TSBVI shared this note from John Walsh that she read on the bvi-parents listserv. He was responding to another parent who was concerned about their child losing interest in reading. We both felt other parents would enjoy learning about his ideas for supporting literacy. If you would like to contact the listserv you may do so by sending an email message to BVI-PARENTS-subscribe@associate.com.

My daughter became legally blind at age five, but still had some usable vision. She had similar problems with "losing interest" in reading. What that really meant was that reading was simply too difficult. In the first couple of grades, the sentences were simple, the print relatively large, and it was easy to read with the magnifier. She had resisted learning braille because she could read with print. But gradually, in the 5th and 6th grade, the print became smaller, and the sentences more complex. While she could still "read" with the help of a magnifier, it became increasingly difficult to the point of being unmanageable.

We happened on one solution (or aid, at least) by accident. We used to take long car trips frequently, Patti, myself, and her older sister. I thought it might be fun to get books on tape from the library and listen to them on the cassette in the car to make the trip go faster. So we got Steinbeck's "Red Pony," some short stories from Edgar Allen Poe and O'Henry, etc..... And both daughters just loved this. (I did too!) I think there was a stigma attached to listening to books on tape for my daughter at first. But once we all did it and enjoyed it, she began to realize that there was a great amount of stuff she was missing by being stubborn and insisting that she could "read" instead of using other methods. So she began to listen to books on tape on her own, and renewed her interest in reading.

Subsequently, Patti lost most of the rest of her vision. She decided on her own that she had to learn braille and rely on alternate technology, and she has had little problem since. But, in sum, it seemed that she was at one point willing to give up reading in exchange for not being different. It was only when her older sister and I also enjoyed "reading" books on tapes, that she was able to put the "being different" aside and relax and enjoy them.

Now she reads lots with books on tape, her scanner with the Open Book program on the computer, and, to a lesser degree, braille books. One more tip to remember when you start, make sure you get good dramatic stories.

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from Summer 1998 issue