Title: Out of Darkness
Author: Russell Freedman
Major Themes: Louis Braille, Blindness, Braille Alphabet, France, Easy Readers, Biographies, 19th Century History, Europe
Synopsis: A blind boy himself, Louis Braille invented the alphabet that is still used today by the blind.
The story of Louis Braille is an amazing one. It is the story of a man who overcame an extreme difficulty in his life and went on to help others. I just read Out of Darkness to my 8- and 5-year-olds as part of their history course. I’m not sure how much the 5-year-old understood, but I know the 8-year-old got a lot out of it.
Louis was only three years old when he disobeyed his father one day and injured his eye, resulting in a complete loss of sight in both eyes. The intelligent boy suddenly found himself with no way of learning, since schools for the blind were unknown to his family. The local priest and schoolteacher both tried to teach him, but their resources were limited. Louis and his parents were very happy to learn about a blind school in Paris, and when Louis was 10 years old he went there to study.
Louis was disappointed when he began to learn to read in the school. The only books they had for the students were made with embossed letters for the students to read with their fingers—but it was very difficult to differentiate between the letters, and there were very few books for them. Was this really any better than not learning at all? Then one day, a military captain presented his invention to the school. Would it work better? Louis spent many years working on it, and invented what is known today as the Braille alphabet. Would the school ever accept it?
I really liked the way Out of Darkness is written. It tells the story of Louis’s life and his struggles in a very interesting way that fairly young children can easily understand.
Read Aloud—Ages 5 – 8
Reading Independently—Ages 7 – 9, 8 – 12