By Emily Drooby
It’s an alphabet that’s rarely taught in schools. Antonio Caruso is only in the fourth grade, but now he knows how to read and write in braille.
“We learned how to do braille,” Antonio said. “Like, we used peas and then we put them on the dots of the alphabet and it was pretty cool.”
He learned it at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy in Gravesend, Brooklyn.
The activity stems from a lesson on American icon Helen Keller, who lost her sight and hearing at a very young age.
“I learned that Helen Keller has been through a lot of obstacles, like being blind and deaf at the same time,” said student Mariam Egiazarian.
Keller went on to become an author, disability rights advocate and American icon.
A devout Christian, Keller spent more than 20 years of her life living in Forest Hills, Queens. Today, a mural in her honor stands near her home.
Keller’s inspirational life story is a staple of American education. When it comes to braille, which is nearly 200 years old, it isn’t taught in schools as often as one would think.
According to the National Braille Press, only 10 percent of blind schoolchildren learn braille in school. That makes this lesson that the Brooklyn students are undertaking, all the more unique.
Teacher Christine Latona says this lesson goes deeper than just learning braille and highlights all different kinds of communication, including the ones kids might not always think about like voice recordings or sign language.
“So many people struggle with not knowing how to communicate,” Christine said. “That is something that we really need to teach them now, just knowing that there are so many different ways of expressing yourself. It’s not just verbal anymore.”
Christine taught this lesson for six years and says she plans on teaching it for many years to come.