Seedlings Bringing Braille Books to Children for 36 Years
April 22, 2021
Seedlings Braille Books for Children was founded in 1984 when Debra Bonde discovered that braille reading materials for children were scarce. Bonde was a shy woman and decided that addressing the scarcity of books for blind children by creating them herself might be something she could do in quiet of her own home. Bonde enrolled in a braille transcription class where she met the mother of a blind girl who owned only two braille books because the cost was excessive-about $100 each. Knowing that sighted children usually have dozens of books at home, the fact that books for blind children were so expensive set Bonde on a mission to provide books for blind children whose families could not afford them.
Bonde set to work in the basement of her Detroit home, using a braille printer resembling a typewriter, made by her father. She transcribed popular children's books into braille and sold them for the cost of the paper only. As word of her effort spread among parents and teachers, demand grew and Bonde ended up producing 221 braille books in 1985. Bonde's work progressed into a non-profit organization, which she named Seedlings Braille Books for Children to reflect her belief that providing children with books allows the love of reading to grow.
Katelynn Lucas of Seedlings Braille Books' Community Outreach Department agrees. "When we're looking into data about how braille literacy affects children is that it really is a huge part of their success as adults, to be able to be braille literate, to be able to have that skill, it pushes them farther and helps them become employed," she says. Indeed Seedlings Braille Books keeps visually impaired children engaged with all types of literature from elementary through high school.
By 1990, Seedlings Braille Books was producing 5,000 braille books each year and Bonde moved the operation out of her basement and into Livonia. In 2020, Seedlings Braille Books produced nearly 30,000 books and articles and gave away 60 percent of those. Those braille books the organization sells are sold at a cost of merely $10, a fraction of what is cost to make them thanks to the generosity of donors and partners. "We are able to put 90 cents of every dollar directly back into book production alone," says Lucas. "Every 10 dollar donation makes a book; your money is going directly to the books and the children that need them."
In all, Seedling Braille Books has produced and distributed over 600,000 books to children in all 50 states and over 75 foreign countries since 1984. Seedlings offers over 600 titles and Lucas says, "We are the largest children's braille publisher in the U.S. Just the idea that we're helping blind children and their families all over the world, I think that, for most of the staff is probably the most fulfilling part of the job." In addition, Seedlings works with teachers of the visually impaired, and books produced by Seedlings Braille Books can be found in local libraries.
"Our main goal is to get out free and low-cost, quality braille books to the children in need and we are actually able to give away about 50 percent of our books," says Lucas. "That's our mission; we want to spread the word of braille literacy to all the children that need it."
All work at Seedlings Braille Books is done with a small staff and a team of volunteers in the Livonia office. Financial support for comes from individuals, philanthropic groups, corporations, and private foundations. The organization receives no state or federal funding.
Seedlings Braille Books for Children is hosting a fundraiser, a Spring Online Auction from April 20 to 27 at 10 p.m. Donors can bid on prizes online at http://www.biddingforgood.com/SeedlingsBrlBks. To find out more about Seedlings Braille Books for Children go to http://www.seedlings.org or see their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SeedlingsBrlBks.