Seven-year-old Addyson Clarkson is just learning to read. Right now she relies on her mom, but soon she’ll be able to do it all by herself by feel.
Addyson was born blind and is learning to read braille.
“You feel it on your fingers and it’s very, very, very, very dotty,” Addyson said.
Finding braille children’s books isn’t easy and can be expensive. “You can’t just go to Walmart and get a kids’ braille book so having that accessibility is very important and we love it,” said Addyson’s mom, Brittany Clarkson.
“Braille Tales” is a program through the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville that provides free books to children from birth to six years old. It’s a partnership with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library that started about six years ago when a mother contacted APH about wanting to read to her child.
“This particular lady in Tennessee was a braille reader, she had a sighted child and wanted to be able to read to her sighted child with braille,” said Gary Mudd with APH.
Every other month, a new braille tale arrives in the mail.
“I hope that this just opens the doorway for her to just build her skills in reading, and continue to be excited about reading because obviously that’s going to be something she can use for the rest of her life,” said Clarkson.
Not far from where Addyson’s little fingers are moving over the dots, the braille books are actually being made at the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women, Kentucky’s only women’s prison.
Vicki Monroe is currently serving 25 years behind bars for murder. She spends seven hours a day, five days a week working in the Inmate Braille Program. “I messed up and I’m trying to make up for that,” Monroe said.
Monroe is one of 20 inmates who transcribe fanciful stories into braille, print off the raised dots, then fix them to the colorful pages. “It’s just something every child should get,” said Monroe.
As she works, she thinks of who will get this story. “It’s wonderful. I mean you’re doing something for a small child that’s learning to read or gets the chance to be read to by their blind parent,” said Monroe.
Monroe still has four years left in prison, but she already has big plans for the skills she’s learned while locked up. “If it wasn’t for this, I don’t know what I would do. I would have nothing. I’ve been here for so long, I will have nothing. But I have this, and they can’t take it,” said Monroe.