Growing Readers, Growing Leaders

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In late June, LBPH hosted the BELL Academy’s 2017 Growing Readers and Growing Leaders program. Short for Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning, the BELL Academy is a program facilitated by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) that targets blind and low vision children. The program provides Braille and nonvisual skills instruction to children over the summer in a fun and supportive environment.

The BELL Academy students participated in fun, hands-on learning activities throughout their two weeks at the library. Highlights included a visit from a local music store that brought drums, a flute, a trombone, and other instruments for the students to check out and play. Opportunities to interact with real objects are essential for children who are blind or who have low vision. Just giving a description of a trombone and the way it sounds wouldn’t be enough: hands-on experiences are key. It was a noisy day at LBPH, but we didn’t mind!

A student holds a flute while an adult helps her position her fingers on the keys. Students seated in chairs around the girl wait for their turn with the flute.

A trip to the LABS at CLP-Main gave students an opportunity to explore music and hands-on maker projects. Students recorded songs, sewed pillows, and beaded jewelry while interacting with their peers.

Three photographs arranged side-by-side. From left to right: a student records a song, a student strums a guitar sitting cross-legged on the floor, and another student holds up the pillow they've sewn

In a group activity, creating tactile illustrations with a Swell Form machine allowed students to explore new technology. The students drew with markers then ran their drawings through a Swell Form machine, a special sort of printer that uses heat to make drawings tactile. It was the perfect opportunity for students to experience drawing in a new way while learning about accessible technology.

Students seated at a table drawing. One student is running his drawing through a Swell Form machine to create a tactile drawing

On the last day of the program, the students took turns sharing something that made them proud of one another. One boy stood up and said to his friend, “I’m proud of you because you were a hard worker and you never gave up on your [Braille] contractions, even when they got hard.” Another student said, “I’m proud of you because you helped all of us and you were a good leader.”