Being a professional storyteller I am always looking for a creative way to explain to elementary children what it is like to be blind. This concept is difficult for children to understand, especially since I don’t look blind or weird. However, having lived the first forty-four years of my life sighted, I remember how different I truly felt when I was newly blind. Reflecting on what happened to me, I decided to write about my thoughts, my feelings, and my fears.
I couldn't sleep as I bandied about the idea of a forest creature being blind and not knowing she was blind. How frustrated she would be, sometimes angry. That wouldn't help her to "fit in,” to belong, amongst the creatures of the woods. My Bettina was bold, but she needed to learn how to be nice to attract friends. She had to accept her situation and overcome her challenges in order to belong amongst the woodsy creatures.
I used my talking computer to put this story to paper. A screen reading software program for visually impaired people called JAWS helped me keep track of my words. I thought about my reader as I typed out Bettina’s story. What happens when the book is read to a blind child? Disagreeing with the notion that illustrations alone will do the describing for you in a picture book, I decided it was necessary to also illustrate with words. It was important to me that Bettina the Bold be enjoyed by all readers—sighted or blind.
After I finished writing the story, I trusted my illustrator and graphic artist friend to make Bettina come alive on paper. She has done a precious job of illustrating the story and bringing Bettina to life. Children love the characters.
Next, I gave the manuscript to an editor who was visually impaired. I didn't know how much she could see of the pictures, but I trusted her instincts and experience with children would help her match the illustrations to the words and correct my grammatical errors.
Finally, I asked a fellow master storyteller friend to use her many voices to create a recorded version that would enhance the understanding for visually impaired children as well as those of us who like to listen to a beautifully told story. Ken Medema, the composer and singer of the song which accompanies this audio book, is a genius with his music ministry. His theme song for Bettina the Bold paints a picture in a musical way.
My talented team loves children and strongly believes in Bettina’s message. It is important to us that all children learn how to connect with others.
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