Saxyn and Kaye clutch their new books. Saxyn all wiggles and giggles, Kaye a little more serious around the strange photographer she’s never met before.
This is an exciting day for Saxyn, 5, and Kaye, 2. It is a rare occasion to receive a new book, even though both families love reading. The rarity is because these are braille-based books. And they cost approximately $100 each. The stories are beautifully illustrated, with raised markings on the pictures so the children can ‘see’ The Boy and the Wolf and Splish the Fish as they make their journey through the raised pages.
Saxyn’s mom Jillian says it is a great gift for her story-loving son.
“It’s nice because we don’t get access to braille books very often,” says Jillian.
Kaye’s mom Holly agrees, saying you cannot simply walk into a bookstore and buy these specialized books. Holly anticipates Kaye will enjoy her new book too.
“She loves reading – we do tons of it,” says Holly.
The books were gifts from Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy (CBAL). Last October, CBAL hosted its 8th annual Reach a Reader – Books for Kids campaign. Alongside individual and business donations through the month, volunteers (including some enthusiastic Rockies players), took to the streets to raise money in a one-day fundraising campaign. In that one day alone, they raised close to $1,000. With braille books being so cost-prohibitive, Sandy Kalesnikoff, community literacy coordinator, says this was a perfect way to spend the locally-raised money.
“Every child should have a book,” affirms Ms. Kalesnikoff. “CBAL was very happy to help.”
CBAL was asked by Rocky Mountain School District 6 if they would be interested in buying the books and Ms. Kalesnikoff jumped at the chance to support the project financially.
“I’m really happy for the collaboration from CBAL,” commented Laurie Watson, the district’s new TSVI (teacher of students with visual impairment).
Jennifer Turner, assistant superintendent at Rocky Mountain School District 6, says there has always been access to a vision teacher through shared resources with other school districts. However this school year, the board opted to hire a full-time vision teacher and a full-time hearing teacher as a result of increasing numbers of students needing support in these areas.
“We have students in need in each of our communities (the three zones of Kimberley, Windermere and Golden),” Ms. Turner tells the Pioneer. “The Board of Education has put a high priority in supporting all students, and certainly students with extra needs.”
Saxyn’s mom Jillian says it is fortunate for Saxyn (who is partially sighted) and other students with visual challenges to have a dedicated teacher for the visually impaired now, and she adds Saxyn’s school has worked hard to accommodate him in the school with modifications and training happening before he even hit Kindergarten this school year.
When asked what it is like raising a partially-sighted child in the Columbia Valley, Holly says it is hard to compare as Kaye is their only child. However, she emphasizes Kaye is “totally adaptable” to her condition, and uses the abilities she does have to succeed.
Saxyn and Kaye are certainly not alone in facing visual challenges: in the B.C. interior, there are 2,457 active clients at the Canadian Institute for the Blind (CNIB), according to Jackie Lau, marketing and communications specialist.The CNIB loans out books from its collection to families across Canada. CNIB also offers programs to help visually impaired Canadians live an independent life, teaching things as varied as traveling common routes through a community to how to safely pour a cup of tea.
Locally, the Invermere Public Library also offers reading materials and services through the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS). NNELS is a shared-service initiative, launched in 2013 in response to pressure to support public libraries with accessible-format materials. Drop into the library to find out more.
To learn more about CBAL or donate to help with projects such as this, visit http://www.cbal.org/windermere-valley.html.
It was only fitting that before leaving CBAL the day the children received their books, there would be a story time. While Kaye cuddled with Mom as she investigated Splish the Fish, Ms. Kalesnikoff read Saxyn The Boy and the Wolf. The pair sat close and grinned as they followed the storybook characters on their escapades. Saxyn enraptured at the storytelling; in a scene replayed since the dawn of the written word, the love of reading was taught, and experienced, once again through the turning of the pages, ones Saxyn gets to see in his own unique way.