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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Out of Darkness: The Story of Louis Braille

Out of Darkness: The Story of Louis Braille

1 rating: 3.0
A book by Russell Freedman

A biography of the modest Frenchman who, after being blinded at the age of three, went on to develop a system of raised dots on paper that enabled blind people to read and write.

Author: Russell Freedman
Genre: Education, Social Science
Publisher: Sandpiper
Date Published: September 20, 1999
1 review about Out of Darkness: The Story of Louis Braille

Braille: Code or Communication?

  • Dec 10, 2007
Rating:
+3
Pros: Warm, detailed glimpse of the inventor of Braille.

Cons: Incomplete Braille chart, not applicable to target audience as indicated by Library of Congress.

The Bottom Line: This would be an informative book for instructors and parents to share with young readers, as an introduction to the Braille system.

MERELY MAKING DOTS

Throughout my sojourn in the public education system, I have been assailed by questions regarding Braille textbooks. Why are the pages double-sided? Is it not difficult to read double-sided work, considering the apparent conglomeration of dots in all directions? Why are Braille books so large? Do they contain pictures or graphs?

Above all, however, I have been met with misconceptions regarding that fascinating system, invented nearly 180 years ago. Man individuals view Braille as a complex language, a secret code, or “making dots”. Quite frequently, it is difficult to dispel such misguided musings. My system of written communication will forever stand as a fun game for the blind girl—at least, in the minds of some.

Consequently, I can clearly imagine the difficulty with which Louis Braille was met upon first proposing a system of dots as useful to the blind. During my early childhood, I was constantly compared with Helen Keller. Of much greater interest to me, however, was an admirable Frenchman who developed one of the most affective tools for mainstreaming visually-impaired individuals. Russell Freedman, an acclaimed biographer and author of children materials, portrays Braille’s encouraging journey with intriguing detail and unpitying frankness.

FROM AWL TO STYLUS, AND BEYOND

Born in the French village of Coupvray, Louis Braille experienced a rich and fulfilling early childhood. By the age of three, he took immense pleasure in observing his father in the small leather-shop where he worked. His lightsome existence was shattered at the age of three, however, when he decided to examine his father’s awls. During an excruciating turn of events, Louis punctured his right eye. Nineteenth-century physicians had little recourse; Louis’ ultimate blindness was the tragic result.

At the age of ten, Louis was accepted into the Royal Institute for Blind Youth, the only school for the blind in France. There, he studied geography, math, grammar, and music. Surprisingly enough, his musical accomplishments initially gained him greater recognition than did his invention. Despite his insatiable appetite for knowledge, Louis felt the Institute lacking in one vital area. The only known system of written communication for the blind was a method known as embossing. Large, print letters were pressed into wax paper; when the paper was turned over, the letters became tactile. Because only a few sentences could be printed on each page, embossed books were nearly impossible to obtain. The Institute’s library contained only fourteen texts.

Two years later, Night Writing was brought to the attention of the Institute’s staff and students. The system employed a system of tactile dots and dashes, each representing a phonemic sound. Overjoyed at the opportunity to communicate using dots rather than squiggly, cumbersome letters, Louis began experimenting with the system. The standard Braille code took eight years to perfect. Using a slate and a pointed stylus, Louis ultimately eliminated dashes and created symbols that stood for letters of the alphabet, rather than individual sounds.

The Braille System was initially met with resistance from the majority of government officials. Many argued that Braille would close off the world of the blind, more than it was already. Nevertheless, Louis Braille persevered; today, Braille has been adapted to most major language groups.

“DOTS” AND THEIR STUDY

Rather than numbered chapters, this eighty-one-page biography contains several titled sections. An accurate copy of the Braille alphabet is included. I was slightly disappointed to see that the Braille symbols comprise the alphabet only, without even basic punctuation.

According to the Library of Congress, this book is intended for grades 4-7. I feel that this is a slightly high estimate, as this book does not contain nearly enough detail to satisfy the average fifth-grader. Rather, this book would likely be best suited for second-grade students. OUT OF DARKNESS is an excellent introduction to Braille and the man who invented it, and would certainly serve as a perfect read-aloud work.


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