Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille

Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille

Jen Bryant
Illustrator:  Boris Kulikov 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Random House, 2016   ISBN: 978-0449813379

Louis Braille was a much loved child who enjoyed exploring his world and learning new skills. When he was three he learned to count, and to memorize stories. What he loved to do most of all was to watch his father work. Louis’ father worked with leather to make and fix things, and Louis eagerly sat and watched his father as he labored. Louis was always told not to touch his father’s sharp tools, but one day he did not listen and he picked up an awl. The tool slipped and cut Louis’ eye.

All probably would have been well except that Louis once again touched something that he was told to leave alone. He touched his bandage, the wound got infected and, alas, the infection spread to the other eye. Soon Louis could no longer see the world that he had watched with such curiosity not long ago.

Louis now had to use his other senses to help him get around and connect with the world. He learned to identify sounds and how to move from place to place using a cane and counting steps. Louis’ mother and sisters found creative ways to teach Louis his alphabet and his numbers, creating textured things that he could touch using his fingertips. Louis listened to the stories the village priest shared with him, and to the lessons the school master gave, and he asked both men if they had books for blind children. He wanted to read and write on his own, but there were no books for the blind and no tools to help them write.

Thanks to the help of a local lady, Louis was given the opportunity to go to a school for the blind in Paris. He would have to be a boarder and would only see his family a few times a year, but Louis wanted to read and so he went to the school.

Louis endured poor living conditions and unsatisfying lessons because he knew that eventually, when he was deemed worthy, he would be allowed to read the books in the school library. When the day came Louis was so excited, but when he finally touched the pages he discovered that there were raised letters on the pages that were as large as his hand, which meant that there were very few sentences on each page. It was a crushing disappointed. How could Louis learn much from such books? Blind people like him needed a different system of writing so that they could have real books.

Sighted people take reading for granted. They are surrounded by words that they can read whenever they want to. They can look at words in books, magazines, on television screens, on food packaging and so on. We never think about what it would be like to live in a world where we cannot read anything, where the words others can read with ease are inaccessible to us. This is the world that Louis Braille lived in. Desperate to find a way to give blind people the means to read, Louis worked for years to a develop a system of writing for the blind, and when he was still a child he created one that is still used by blind people today.

At the back of this beautifully written book, readers will find further information about Louis Braille and his extraordinary achievements.