Back in August, I got a surprise in the mail: a long Braille computer printout and a letter. The letter was from Patti Smith, who teaches visually impaired middle-schoolers in Detroit’s public school system. She explained that almost all the Braille kids’ books she had access to were for really little kids — kindergartners, basically — and how discouraging this was for her kids.
The reason she was writing to me was to thank me for releasing my young adult novel Little Brother under a Creative Commons license, which meant that she could download the ebook version and run it through her school’s Braille embosser (US copyright law makes it legal to convert any book to Braille or audiobook for blind people, but it is technically challenging and expensive to do this without the electronic text).
I wrote about this on my personal blog, and it inspired my colleague, the sf/f writer Paula Johansen, to write to Patti to offer up her own YA titles as ebooks for Patti’s students.
Well, this got me thinking that there might be lots of YA writers who’d be glad to see their books get into the hands of visually impaired, literature-hungry students, so I worked with Patti to put together the pitch below. Please pass it along to all the YA writers you know. I would love to see Patti’s class start the school year with a magnificent library of hundreds and hundreds of fantastic YA books to choose from, so that they can start a lifelong love-affair with literature.
I am Patti Smith and I teach at OW Holmes, which is an elementary-middle
school in Detroit Public Schools in Detroit, Michigan. My students are
visually impaired, ranging in age from 2nd grade to 8th grade. Five of
my students are Braille writers and two are learning Braille. I would
love books for young adults in electronic format (Word or RTF) so that I can plug the
file into my computer program and emboss the book in Braille so my kids
can have something to read. I have found it very difficult to find books for young adults; most seem to be written for very young readers. My Braille readers are all age 11+ and it is a challenge to find relevant books for them to read. Thank you so much!!
Patti’s email is TeacherPattiS@gmail.com