I remember having, when I was little, a set of plastic letters. At the bottom of each letter was the braille symbol for the letter. I never bothered to learn them then – now I wish I had!
Louis Braille was born on January 4, 1809, to Simon-Rene and Monique Braille. Simon-Rene was a leather man and from the time that Louis was very young, he was allowed to wander around his father’s shop. But he was instructed never to play with his father’s sharp tools. He might hurt himself.
One day, when Louis was three, he wandered into his father’s workshop. He decided to try out his father’s trade – he would punch a hole in a strip of leather just like his father. But things went wrong. The awl slipped; Louis ran from the shop screaming and bleeding. He had lacerated his own eye.
Although his parents brought him to a highly-respected Paris surgeon, nothing could be done to save the eye. The infection from it spread to his other eye, and by the time he was five years old, Louis was totally blind. His parents attempted to raise him as they did his siblings, but things were different. They even sent him to the local school where he learned a good deal, but was unable to make real progress because of his inability to read.
It was not until Louis was ten years old that his parents were able to send him to the National Institute for Blind Youth in Paris. While there, he tested several different methods that were being developed which were meant to enable the blind to read. Unsatisfied with them, Louis made his own experiments, and when he was twenty years old he published his system – the Braille system. His work met with varying success and criticism throughout his life, but two years after his death, his system was formally adopted by the very institution which he himself had attended. He died at the age of forty-three of tuberculosis. Despite his own limitations, he masterfully created a language which would make the life of every blind person after him fuller. He is greatly to be respected.
The scene in which Louis injured his eye made me cringe. He was playing with a sharp awl in his father’s shop (his father was not there and had previously instructed Louis not to play with the tools), the awl slipped, and his eye was pierced. I have decided to include the scene because it is my only caution and I want you parents to know exactly what is going on here.
The sharp instrument glanced off the slippery surface of the leather. Louis shrieked.
Simon ran into the shop from the courtyard. Blood was streaming down the boy’s face. As the harness maker reached for his son and picked him up, he saw to his horror that the blood was coming from Louis’s left eye. Clutching the hysterical child in his arms, Simon ran back into the courtyard, shouting for his wife, Monique.
Louis’s mother flung open the door of their stone cottage and rushed toward the boy with out-stretched arms. Two neighbor women, Madame Boury and Madame Hurault, came out on their doorsteps, saw what was happening, and hurried over. Louis’s mother asked for some white linen and fresh water, so she could clean the area around the injured eye. Simon went to fetch an old woman of the village who was said to possess healing powers. She arrived at the scene with some lily water and began to dab gently at the wound as tears mingled with blood on the child’s face.
Louis had punctured his eye. He was put to bed in the garret room that he shared with his older brother and two older sisters. By the time the local doctor could be found, the bleeding had stopped…
Louis’s eye became red and swollen. His inflamed eyelid turned purple, as if from a blow. As he rubbed his injured eye to ease the irritation, he unwittingly spread the infection with his hands to his other eye. At the time – it was the year 1812 – there was no known way to control such an infection.” [pgs. 8-9]
This scene was so horribly sad. ;(
Conclusion. An excellent introduction for children. It made me want to learn more about Louis Braille’s life and the process by which he arrived at his unique language system. Purchase your copy here.
Review © 2012 Laura Verret