I was invited to spend a morning at Braille House at their playgroup, for children 0-5 years old. The sessions are held monthly and are free for all.
It quickly became apparent that you don't have to be blind or partially sighted to participate. Quite the opposite. The playgroup is open to all children but something very important is done in the process. Children and parents are familiarised with Braille and the implications of living with partial or full blindness and an awareness is created of these special needs.
Braille House, which is on 507 Ipswich Road in Annerley, is a building dedicated to people with low or no vision. It is run by volunteers and some dedicated staff. When you walk in, there are comfortable seating areas and an adult library but also a shop where the most beautiful little cards are sold as well as other products, often the work of volunteers.
An extension, which is bright and airy houses the playgroup and the shelves are full of books which are donated to the House. Each book is transformed by the addition of Braille either in tape form or where there is more text in plastic sheeting in Braille script. Again a lot of this work is undertaken by volunteers. Here are some photos of the books with their twin texts.
The playgroup was very well attended. Mums and babes, as well as toddlers and slightly older children, came and chose books which they read happily. There is always a theme to the morning and Andrew Backhouse who is the Marketing and Community Engagement Officer leads them with joyfulness and enthusiasm. Today's theme was Farmyard Animals complete with the sounds that each one makes and the songs that they can sing together.
A letter in Braille is put on the board and gradually the children, as well as the parents, pick up some of the Braille. Stories are read to the whole group before morning tea. There is a dollar donation for that. After the break, the children go next door to engage in a craft activity, which carries on the theme of Farmyard Animals. There is colouring-in and some interesting magic visuals for the children, which they are all happy to engage in.
The playgroup wraps up at about 11 am with mums and babes having had an engaging and fun morning. If you are a mum and have children in the area, or even further afield, do go along and enjoy this well-organised playgroup.
If you are a person looking for some rewarding volunteer work, do think about putting your name down for the many varied roles you might have there.
If you are having a clear-out and have books to donate this is the place to give them. Each one will be lovingly reconfigured to include Braille on its pages. A single Harry Potter book is transformed into many volumes and it is right that such popular books should be available to all.