Volume 10, Issue 3

Fall 2009


The purpose of Wisconsin Braille Inc. is to advance communication and coordinate the efforts of all persons concerned with the availability, quality, and distribution of brailled materials in the state of Wisconsin thereby encouraging braille literacy.


Keep ‘em Reading!

Teacher Tactics


by Sandy Adams, President
     Wisconsin Braille, Inc.


With this issue, Wisconsin Braille once again offers a selection of free braille books to Wisconsin school libraries.  Now in its tenth year, this project is a small effort in the larger campaign to promote braille literacy among blind children of all ages, realizing that the ability to read, for any child, offers them a higher educational level, a higher likelihood of employment, and a higher income.  (See article below, “Braille Literacy Crisis in America.”)


There are other sources for teachers and parents to access braille books either on loan or for sale.  A short list of these sources follows—with thanks to Mary Ann Damm, past Board President and current Education Chair, who initially compiled it.  Let’s keep our students reading!


The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS)

www.loc.gov/nls    800-424-8567

Offers a wide variety of braille books on loan.  Call your regional library (800-242-8822 here in Wisconsin) or

NLS for more information and an



American Printing House for the Blind

www.aph.org  800-223-1839

Sells the “On the Way to Literacy” books, with print and braille and tactile illustrations; also a source for many other braille children’s books and early learning materials, many of which can be purchased through federal quota funds.

Kenneth Jernigan Library for Blind Children, Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults

www.actionfund.org  818-343-2022

Maintains a lending library of print/braille books as well as braille books for K-1 up to 12th grade reading and interest level.  Books are mailed to children’s homes and also to schools.  Contact the American Action Fund in writing for an application (18440 Oxnard Street, Tarzana, CA 91356).


The National Braille Press

www.nbp.org  800-548-7323

Offers a “Children’s Braille Book Club” aimed especially at preschool and primary grade children.  The books offered are popular picture books in print/braille format. There is no fee to join the club, and you can buy as few or as many books as you wish.


Seedlings, Braille Books for Children

www.seedlings.org  800-777-8552

Books are available for braille readers from pre-school to age 14 for the same price as print editions.  Choose from print/braille board books in uncontracted braille, beginning reader print/braille books, and braille-only chapter books through middle school reading level on many different topics.  Seedlings also offers “The Rose Project”, providing free World book Encyclopedia articles in braille.


The Braille Institute of America, Inc.

www.brailleinstitute.org 800-272-4553

Follow the link to Children’s Literacy Services. The Institute offers books for young children (Dots for Tots) and for school-aged readers. The Braille Special Collection is designed to increase braille literacy by offering blind and visually impaired children the opportunity to order a variety of books throughout the year, free of charge, to create a special library of their own.  The Special Collection Program is designed for individual children and can only be sent to a child's home or residential school address.  Schools and libraries may participate through the Partners in Literacy Program for a fee.


Volunteer Braillists and Tapists, Inc.

Madison, WI

www.vbti.org 608-233-0222

Braille books and print/braille books available for loan or purchase. Catalog available.



Braille Literacy Crisis in America


For the full NFB report entitled “The Braille Literacy Crisis in America; Facing the Truth, Reversing the Trend, Empowering the Blind” go to www.nfb.org



he National Federation of the Blind issued a report to the nation, dated March 26, 2009, on the state of braille literacy today and some proposals for improving the braille literacy rate over the next six years. Following is a summary of the NFB report.


1) After examining the history and decline of braille education in America, the NFB has concluded that there is a braille literacy crisis in America. "Nearly 90 percent of America's blind children are not learning to read and write because they are not being taught braille or given access to it."


2) Because this situation has prevailed for some time, the results are dire. "Over 70 percent of blind adults are unemployed, and as many as 50 percent of blind high school students drop out of high school."


3) By contrast, blind people who know braille and use it find success, independence, and productivity. "A recent survey of five hundred respondents by the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute revealed a correlation between the ability to read braille and a higher education level, a higher likelihood of employment, and a higher income."


The report concludes with some goals it hopes to achieve by the year 2015:


        a) Doubling the number of school age children able to read braille.


        b) The enactment of legislation in all 50 states requiring special education teachers to obtain National Certification in Literary Braille.


        c) Making more braille resources available online through sharing of materials and new production methods.


        d) Adding courses in braille instruction to the curricula of high schools and colleges offering a program for special education teachers.


        e) Instructing the American people on the importance of braille literacy to the blind.


Unfortunately, the NFB Report provides neither a program nor specific steps by which these laudable goals might be achieved.



A New Beginning


by Dennis Helwig


A very short (yet long) three months ago I was released from prison. You may have read articles here that I've written in the past from the OSCI Braille program. Now I write to you from the "free world" to say thanks to everyone who helped me along the way to this New Beginning.


When I started in the OSCI Braille program back in 2001 it was a small program of six people who shared a room with other groups in the prison. We had to put all of our equipment away at night in side rooms and dig it out the next morning to start all over again. We as a group worked on a total of two books. When I left the program we were lucky to be working on only two books per person. I would have never thought when I joined the program that there would be so much need for braille and that the little program I was a part of would expand so readily to meet that demand.


The credit for the ability to expand the program goes out to the dedicated staff of the prison, the administration, the original program coordinator Dave Hines and the then education director Dave Haines. Yes, I know the names are confusing.


I want to take this opportunity to personally thank some people now without sounding too much like the academy awards. It is my understanding (through letters from men still in the program) that the administration has now begun to remodel a new, larger room for the program. A great big thanks to them for their continued support.


To Dave Hines for hiring me and giving me the opportunity to thrive in the program. It was his guidance and encouragement that allowed me to continue on after my certification in Literary Braille for my advanced certifications in Mathematics and Science Braille, Music Braille, and Textbook Formats.


To Constance Risjord, Mary Ann Damm, and WisBrl as a whole, a great big THANKS! Thank you for coming in and providing ongoing training and discussions. It is out of these spirited discussions that we as a group were able to develop our skills and provide the best quality braille possible. A continued thanks now that I am out for all of your support and providing an invaluable amount of braille guidance and information.


To Kurt Pamperin, the current braille coordinator at OSCI. Thank you for your continuation of the encouragement of the "older transcribers" to continue their studies, your bringing in new students and for you yourself becoming a student and gaining your certification. My best wishes to you in the future of the program.


Now a few words about life after prison. While I certainly do not recommend a stretch in prison for anyone, I look back at my time and I am thankful that I was able to be a part of something that enabled me to learn, grow, and give back. Since my release, I have joined up with Jeff Hunter, another former member of the OSCI Braille Program, to create a braille production company which we are calling Phoenix Braille. The name of course was chosen for the symbolic meaning of rising from the ashes. We as a group have been able to take on several projects and look forward to growing our business and continuing to provide the high quality braille that we learned to produce at OSCI. I personally have recently joined the National Braille Association (NBA) and WisBrl. I will continue to lend my support to both organizations and hope to meet some of you at the meetings. Until then . . .



Parenting by the Dots

How braille has helped us as blind parents of a sighted child


  by Cheryl Orgas


Fifteen years ago on October 8, 1993, my husband, Bill, and I brought into the world a 7 pound 13 ounce baby boy we named Christopher William Meeker. We both have been blind all our lives but we had never been parents. As most parents, we were scared to death of being responsible for this precious little being; dependent on us for his every need.


As blind parents we used many alternative techniques. But the one tried and true technique we called upon on a daily basis was reading and writing braille.


Even before Christopher was born, we spent much time either brailling children's books or ordering books from places such as National Braille Press, Seedlings, and Volunteer Services for the Visually Handicapped, now Audio & Braille Literacy Enhancement, the agency I currently direct.


We read Christopher books in braille almost every night. By the time he was 1 year old he was filling in words from Goodnight Moon. When Christopher was 18 months, Bill became very ill and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. Christopher ran to get his Pat the Bunny book and put it in my lap to read. It's a book that I brailled for him before his birth and it is a book that also is tactile. Christopher kept going to the page where daddy's rough face is shown, and he would put my hand on that spot.


Well, his dad came home from the hospital and continued to share in the reading of the many braille books. We were able to get him ‒ Christopher that is ‒ to go to sleep with the lights off by reading braille books in the dark; a feat not easily accomplished using ink-print books.


When Christopher was 2 we began to play cards and dice with him using brailled adapted games.  Later we moved on to Monopoly and Candy Land.  He learned about winning, losing, and the rules of the game. When Christopher was 4 years old, he learned to his delight that he could sometimes win more easily by disregarding the rules of the game. That's when we began teaching him that the end does not justify the means.


As Christopher entered Kindergarten we became a part of his classroom by reading out loud to him and his peers and answering all kinds of questions about what it is like to be blind. Children are refreshing. They ask the most amazing, honest, and direct questions. We continued going into his classroom until middle school, when Christopher said enough of that; not because we're blind, but because we're his parents.


Braille has been essential throughout our parenting for labeling medicines, labeling homework sheets, taking notes on his assignments and using braille to keep up with all the material that we receive because of the sports and recreational activities Christopher is involved in. Using braille in our parenting has served many practical  purposes, helped us deal with the many responsibilities of parenting, and has given us so much joy and pleasure! We love parenting by the dots.


Cheryl Orgas, WisBrl Board Member, and

William Meeker, NFB Milwaukee Chapter President



Negative Braille


Teacher Tips by Marilyn Harmon, TVI


Need a fun code to use with your intermediate to advanced level braille students? How about Negative Braille? A colleague taught this to me and my summer school students a few years ago, and we still use it as our secret code when we see each other at various events. It’s easy. In Negative Braille, you simply apply the unused dots in a letter or contraction. For example, the H in my last name is represented by dots 1-2-5 in regular braille. In Negative Braille, you substitute the missed dots 3-4-6, and so Mrs. H becomes Mrs. Ing (the ing contraction). Alex utilizes all of the dots except dot 1, so he becomes 2-3-4-5-6, or Mr. With. Mario becomes dots 2-5-6, or Mr. Period. Students have fun writing notes in code to one another, while reinforcing the regular braille letters and contractions. Try it
 . . . accentuate the negative!






Wisconsin Braille meeting


All WisBrl meetings are open, and everyone is welcome. The next meeting will be on October 10, 10:00 a.m., at the Wisconsin Council of the Blind, 754 Williamson Street, Madison, Wisconsin.



The Braille Corner


Dear Reader,


     The importance of properly prepared braille cannot be stressed enough. Poorly formatted material, badly worded transcriber’s notes, and lack of consistency slow the reader and lead to confusion and frustration, putting him or her at a disadvantage when in compitition with sighted peers.

     I was reminded of this as I was looking at old issues of Wisconsin Braille. Several years ago an article in the National Braille Association’s Bulletin (and reprinted in the Winter issue, 2002, of the Wisconsin Braille newsletter) by Betsy Burnham described how she had observed braille readers taking a one hour test that required the students to take one minute to scan three selections and to decide which they were going to read completely, and then to answer questions about their selection, including why they had chosen their particular selection. Was it the style, the picture captions, the headings?

     Several years previously Ms. Burnham had observed the administration of a similar test when most of the braille readers started reading (rather than scanning) the first selection and got no farther than the first paragraph due to the time constraints. But this year the students scanned the three articles in the same manner as their sighted peers. Why the change?

    After the first test the vision teachers realized that the test had been formatted in a way that took a great deal of time to figure out. The teachers started studying Braille Formats: Principles of Print to Braille Transcription and attending workshops on formatting, and they found that there were standardized ways of formatting. They then applied what they had learned to their daily preparation of worksheets, or taught the braillists who prepared the worksheets for them. They also began teaching the principles learned in Braille Formats to their students.

* * *

     The need for following formatting rules, and having a recognized certification in textbook formatting had long been talked about, but there was not a formatting instruction manual to help those wishing to learn until 2003. At that time the National Library Service, the certifying agency for literary, math and science, and music, turned to the National Braille Association for help.

     NBA developed a self-study course and an examination. The first section of the NBA Braille Formats Course contains questions designed to advance awareness and expertise in all the rules of Braille Formats and its companion, Quick Reference Manual. Answers are given in the back of the book. The second section is a sample textbook showing simulated braille and running commentary.

     Whether you, teacher or transcriber, simply study the course or go on to take the examination that culminates in a Certification in Braille Textbook Transcribing, the experience is sure to be worthwhile, and braille-reading students will thank you.

     Information on the NBA Braille Formats Course and examination can be had at: NBAOFFICE@NATIONALBRAILLE.ORG.


             Ms. Perkins


Do you  have questions for Ms. Perkins or
Mr. #s? Address them to:

Wisconsin Braille Inc.
P.O. Box 45076
Madison, WI 53744-5076.





Multiple Rhymes


From Fun with Braille (APH, 2006)

Used with permission of the publisher


Write the contraction that rhymes with the words below. Notice that there are multiple rhyming words. There is a different contraction for each rhyming word. Therefore a contraction may only be used once. The contraction will rhyme with word but may not be spelled the same. You can try to solve the rhymes on your own or use the word bank provided if you need additional help.


  1. hood

  2. stood

  3. wood

  4. throw

  5. toe

  6. grow

  7. care

  8. bear

  9. crutch

10. hutch

11. floor

12. store

13. few

14. new

15. bite

16. night

17. thumb

18. plum

19. pill

20. chill



            Word Bank


























WisBrl’s Special Book Project

Order your free books now!


Once again, Wisconsin Braille, Inc. is pleased to offer a selection of free braille books for your school library because of grant money awarded us. This year’s collection includes several books that you requested last year. We continue to choose only those books that are not currently available in braille, checking the data bases at American Printing House (www.aph.org) and the National Library Service (www.loc.gov/nls). We recommend that you check these sources as well before suggesting book titles for next year’s project. You may continue to order early readers in either contracted or uncontracted braille. Indicate your preference on the order form. We sincerely hope that our selection meets the needs of your readers.


Our current selection is:

Because I Could Not Stop My Bike and Other Poems by Karen Jo Shapiro

The poems contained in this volume are delightful parodies of 26 classic poems in which the author has retained the rhythms and meters of the original works, but adapted the content to be appealing to children.  Grades 3-6.


Bodies from the Ice, Melting Glaciers and the Recovery of the Past by James Deem

All around the world, from pole to pole, glaciers are rapidly melting. Their disappearance is uncovering long-hidden bodies of people who died in the glaciers. As their bodies are revealed, scientists study them to learn about the earth’s past.  Grades 7 and up.


Catch Me If You Can by Bernard Most

The little dinosaur might be fast, but the biggest dinosaur is BIG! Will the little dinosaur get away?  Print/braille. Grades K-2.


The Freedom Business by Marilyn Nelson

This book of poetry, interspersed with A Narrative of the Life & Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa, is the true life account of Broteer Furro, captured by slave traders at age six, and brought to Rhode Island. There he was purchased, given a new name, and worked many years before being able to purchase his freedom.  Grades 7 and up.


A Horse Called Starfire by Betty Boegehold

A Spanish explorer sets his horse free in the New World. Alone, she wanders into the lives of Wolf Cub and his father, forming a mystical bond that changes the ways of their Native American tribe forever. This story is one of the Bank Street Ready-to-Read series for children in grades 2-4.


How to Build a House: A Novel by Dana Reinhardt

Seventeen-year-old Harper hopes to escape the effects of her father's divorce by volunteering her summer to build a house in a small Tennessee. She finds herself working with Teddy, the son of the family who will receive the house. Learning to trust him could be the first step toward finding her way back home. Grade 9 and up.


The Magic Fan by Keith Baker

One night as the moon rose over the sea, a magic fan floated in the waves. This is the story of the boy who found it—and how it changed his life forever.  Grades 3-5.


Olivia Sharp, the Sly Spy by Marjorie and Mitchell Sharmat

A cousin of Nate the Great, Olivia is an agent for secrets, always coming through to help those in need, especially her friends. But this time Olivia is the one with the problem. Another detective is covering up her ads and spoiling Olivia’s business. Can Olivia fool the sly spy? 
Grades 2-4.


Rosa Loves to Read by Diane Z. Shore

Rosa continues to read in spite of her noisy environment. Good use of sound words!  This book is a Rookie Reader, Level B.  Print/braille. Grades K-1.


Rent a Third Grader by B.B. Hiller

Partner, the Police Department horse, wasn’t headed for a very happy retirement. Unless somebody came up with the money to put him out to pasture, he’d be turned into…pet food!  That’s how Rent a Third Grader got started. Together Brad, Jennie, and Louisa had to find ways for their classmates to make some money.  But time was running out… Grades 3-5.


The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy

Life is quickly changing for young Jancsi and his cousin Kate. Old enough to take on more responsibilities on the family’s farm, he has heard rumors of war; but when Hungary sends troops to fight in the Great War and Jancsi’s father is called to battle, the two cousins must grow up all the sooner in order to take care of the farm and all the relatives, Russian soldiers and Germn orphans who take refuge with them. This book is a sequel to “The Good Master,” which is already brailled.  Grades 5-8.


            Please remember to submit your order by November 30, 2009, using the order form enclosed; send it only to the OSCI address on the form, NOT to Wisconsin Braille’s P.O. Box. Teachers, please feel free to distribute this information to the parents of your students so they can order as well. You are also able to locate our book offerings, both past and current, on our web site: www.wisbrl.org. You may order up to five books from the composite list on our site in addition to ones from this year’s collection. You should receive your books in the spring of 2010 before school dismisses for summer vacation.  Thanks!


Sandy Adams, Alison McKee and Marilyn Harmon,

Special Book Project Committee


Wisconsin Braille, Inc.

Special Book Project Order Form

Fall, 2009


Check here if you have ordered from us in the past. ____    Cust. ID (if known) _______






_____ Because I Could Not Stop My Bike and Other Poems by Karen Jo  Shapiro

_____ Bodies from the Ice, Melting Glaciers and the Recovery of the Past by James Deem

_____ Catch Me If You Can by Bernard Most (print/braille)

            _____ Contracted

            _____ Uncontracted

_____ The Freedom Business by Marilyn Nelson

_____ A Horse Called Starfire by Betty Boegehold

_____ How to Build a House: A Novel by Dana Reinhardt

_____ The Magic Fan by Keith Baker

_____ Olivia Sharp, the Sly Spy by Marjorie and Mitchell Sharmat

_____ Rosa Loves to Read by Diane Z. Shore (print/braille)

            _____ Contracted

            _____ Uncontracted

_____ Rent a Third Grader by B.B. Hiller

_____ The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy


You may order up to five additional books from previous years: (see compiled list on web site: www.wisbrl.org)


Suggestions for next year:

(Please request specific books that have not already been brailled.  Thanks!)


Place your order by November 30, 2009.  Send order to:

            Kurt Pamperin, Coordinator

            OSCI Braille Program

            1730 Snell Road

            Oshkosh, WI 54903-3530




The Wisconsin Braille newsletter is published three times a year. Deadlines are: Spring/Summer – May 1, Fall – September 1, Winter – December 15



The purpose of this newsletter is to disperse information. Wisconsin Braille Inc. does not endorse or vouch for the reliability of any of the persons, organizations, or products appearing in this publication.



Wisconsin Braille Inc. welcomes letters from readers on all subjects concerning braille and blindness. Publication of letters will be at the editor’s discretion. Letters must be signed, but names will be withheld upon request.




            Use the following form to join or renew your membership to Wisconsin Braille Inc. Please make checks and money orders payable to: WISCONSIN BRAILLE INC.


Regular membership, annual dues: $10

Sustaining membership, annual dues: $30

Lifetime membership: $200


Please include: the date, your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address. Also advise if you wish printed material to be sent to you in regular type, e-mail or braille.


Please answer the following: What is your affiliation with the braille-reading community? (List all that apply.) Teacher, educational assistant, transcriber, proofreader, administrator, producer, parent, user, other (specify).


Return application and payment to: Wisconsin Braille Inc., Membership Chair,

5263 Anna Lane, Middleton, WI 53562



This version of the Wisconsin Braille newsletter was prepared by the members of the OSCI Braille Program. It has not been proofread. Readers are encouraged to report noted errors to: Wisconsin Braille Newsletter, Editor,  P.O. Box 45076, Madison, WI 53744-5076.