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Happy 214th Birthday, Louis Braille!

January 4, 2023

Honoring Louis Braille on the 214th Anniversary of His Birth

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

                Can you recall something special that you did at age twelve?  From my seventh-grade school year, I recall that I was, at my elementary school, the only seventh-grader who took a science project, along with one eighth-grader and my encouraging teacher Mrs. Whitlock, to the Science Fair at the Science Building of Indiana State University.  The hallways were filled with science projects which were much more sophisticated than my endeavor of determining the best type of water for watering geraniums.  (Yes, from a young age, I was interested in geraniums.)  Throughout the day, people paraded by all of the displays of science projects.  I heard one person remark about my project, “There is one of those projects every year.”  The comment did not at all diminish my joy in having my display at the Science Fair.  Although I knew that judging was taking place, I was fully content to have the certificate of participation.  Over five years later, I took university classes in this same building.

                Do you wonder why I am asking about your memories from age twelve and share my humble happening from seventh grade?  I ask because Louis Braille is always on my mind during the first week of each new year and because Louis Braille was only twelve years old when he began working toward a new system of reading and writing for people who are blind.  How amazing that such a young boy would set forth on such a remarkable goal!  Within three years, the teen from Coupvray, France, put the final touches on his system—the same code that we call “braille” in his everlasting honor.  The pianist, organist, and teacher also developed music braille (which I learned ten years ago). 

                Today, January 4, is “World Braille Day” because Louis Braille was born on this day in 1809.  Sadly, due to tuberculosis, Louis Braille lived only two days past his 43rd birthday:  he passed at 7:30 on the evening of Epiphany (January 6).  Even though his system of tactile reading and writing was not officially accepted by the French government until two years after his death, braille is used in almost every country of the world still today. 

                Perhaps, due to my coming to braille somewhat later in life, around age thirty, I am enormously grateful for the genius of Louis Braille:  I do not take his outstanding invention for granted.  His dots are miracle dots, and I am highly pleased to honor him each January.  Louis Braille’s gift to the world allows me to start off each new year with hope and gratitude. 

                Again this year, I highly recommend that you read the definitive book about the life of Louis Braille—a beautiful book with photos, published by National Braille Press, copyright 2006, by C. Michael Mellor.  The title of this wonderful book is LOUIS BRAILLE:  A TOUCH OF GENIUS.  Besides being available in print, the biography is also available from BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download of the National Library Service) in four braille  volumes (BR 16790) and in audio (DB 63350, eight hours and 15 minutes).  While you may find numerous other books about Braille’s life, the Mellor book is the most well-researched and, therefore, the best for learning more about Louis Braille.

Happy reading throughout this new year!  Best Wishes for a Happy 2023!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

January 4, 2023, Wednesday


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  1. Susan McKendry permalink

    Alice, I enjoyed reading this post. I did read this book and learned a lot. It made me grateful that because of you I can read grade one and use the slate and stylus to write. So “Happy Birthday” to Louis Braille and “thank you” to Alice Massa.

    • Sue–Thank you so much!  Each first week of January, I read all or a
      good portion of the Mellor book again and still enjoy refreshing my mind
      with all of the details about Louis Braille, his life and times.

      Best wishes for the new year–Alice and Willow

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