Frequently asked questions:
Q. What do Braille Mentors do?
A. They help braille-reading students read their own books as well as materials from Wisconsin Braille Inc. and the Volunteer Braillists and Tapists, Inc. (VBTI) library of children’s books. Some mentors also request books for specific holidays from the regional library in Milwaukee.
Q. Are other activities involved?
A. Yes. Many mentors and students play games together, write, or just enjoy spending time together. These activities stress sharing, "turn taking," and group participation. Most of the time, though, mentors work individually with each child.
Q. Are there “lesson plans”?
A. Not specifically, but different mentors try different approaches. Sometimes the mentor and student each read a page. Sometimes, when help is needed, the mentor reads and the youngster rereads that page. “I usually ask if the youngster wants to start. Sometimes I go first,” says Cheri McGrath, the first braille mentor. “It thrills me when I hear, ‘Cheri, I want to go first.’ It's wonderful to be interrupted with, ‘Can I read this part?’"
Q. Is the focus only on learning?
A. No. Many mentors and students talk about their feelings about blindness, pride when using a cane, wanting to become more independent, and many other things. Mentors try to be honest and realistic, but always positive.
Q. What does a mentor get from the program?
A. The reward of encouraging a love of reading, plus the opportunity to interact with young people. Cheri says, “I've received beautiful birthday and Christmas cards. I was ill and their teacher had them record their stories for me. One boy, with some sight, described pictures as he read. The youngest girl read and then said, ‘I can't see the pictures but I'll tell you what I imagine.’ One boy, with autism, read more than half an hour on a tape and remained focused on his reading! Last week I served as Grandma. It was Grandparents Day and I filled in. One student, Michael, introduced me to many teachers in the building. He would say, ‘This is my Grandma. She reads braille, too.’ He's proud of it!”
Q. Do I need any special qualifications?
A. You must be a proficient braille reader. You will also need transportation to your student’s site; Wisconsin Braille Inc. will reimburse you for the cost of the transportation.
Q. How do I sign up?
A. If you want to volunteer, or if you know of a student who could benefit from this program, fill-out the Application below: