Tarrant County Literacy Program Helps Visually Impaired Learners

The pilot program had 25 students this summer, but organizers hope it will expand to reach more of the 800 visually impaired students in Region 11.

A pilot program in Tarrant County is encouraging visually impaired students to read and enjoy more books during the summer.

Perkie Cannon, an education specialist for visual impairment, organized the initiative at the Region 11 Education Service Center to better involve visually impaired students, she affectionately called “super summer readers,” with literacy, KERA News reported.

For the new program, Cannon also worked with Stephanie Walker, lead for State Leadership Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and Karen Beard, outreach coordinator with Bookshare, an online library for the visually impaired.

“Reading is a foundation of everything that you do in life, and when you don’t have literacy, your options are limited.”

Perkie Cannon

“Reading is a foundation of everything that you do in life, and when you don’t have literacy, your options are limited,” Cannon told KERA News. 

When students leave school for the summer, literary resources for visually impaired readers can become limited, KERA reported. 

“Many times our students don’t have access to Braille books or to large-print books throughout the summer,” Walker told KERA. “So [the goal is] to help them learn how to gain access and then just to increase their reading over the summer and get them reading for fun.”

For 10-year-old Gavin Gibson, the program largely increased his motivation to read after struggling for five years, KERA reported.

“I can’t see anything out of the left eye and very little out on my right eye,” Gibson told KERA. “I had a brain tumor when I was 5.”

Since engaging in the reading initiative, Gibson has a deeper appreciation for books, KERA reported.

“I enjoy reading now. I enjoy seeing what happens next in books,” he said. 

With 800 visually impaired students in Region 11, Cannon told KERA she hopes the program will grow from the 25 she had this summer.

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