Blind children will be helped to read thanks

by | Jul 9, 2021 | Community News

Hundreds of blind and partially sighted children will be able to equally access the visual world of pictures, books and learning, thanks to a grant of £30,000 from Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Freemasons to the Living Paintings charity.

The Hampshire-based charity has an established project that uses raised, tactile pictures that are explored with the help of immersive audio descriptions. The charity manufactures and publishes unique ‘Touch to See’ books, which provide access to the images that colour and inform our lives and will help blind children learn to read, support students in schools and promote social interaction and positive wellbeing.

These unique multi-media books are loaned, free of charge, from their hugely varied library and benefit 1,239 blind and partially-sighted children across England and Wales. Over the two years of the project funded by the Freemasons, the charity aims to increase the number of children benefitting to 1,900 and introduce 30 new titles to their Touch to See library

There are an estimated 800 blind and partially-sighted children in Hampshire alone, with an estimated 23,000 living with social and educational exclusion across England and Wales. Studies show that 43 per cent experience bullying and 83 per cent are not included in everyday activities such as being invited to birthday parties, whilst mainstream schools rarely have sufficient knowledge and experience to meet their requirements. Thanks to the Living Paintings books, blind and partially-sighted children can develop literacy and communication skills, share more fully in classroom teaching and are able to talk about the same topics as their peers.

The most recent survey of blind and partially-sighted children who use Living Paintings books reveals that:

  • 98 per cent have improved confidence, including 96 per cent who are more confident in joining in class activities and discussions,
  • 98 per cent have attained an increased interest in learning,
  • 95 per cent acquired an improved confidence in reading,
  • 97 per cent benefitted from an increase in shared experiences with sighted friends, family and peers;
  • 95 per cent have improved confidence in taking part in physical activities

The grant from Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.

Camilla Oldland, Chief Executive Officer at Living Paintings, said:

“We’re so grateful to Hampshire Freemasons for this wonderful grant. Thanks to Living Paintings, blind and partially-sighted children are learning to love and read books; a lifelong gift, and engaging with classroom education alongside their sighted friends.  Our charity can only provide these completely free, constantly expanding and developing, services thanks to donations such as this.  And, since the onset of COVID-19 our work has never been more needed which makes this grant even more valuable and impactful.”

Kevin Head from Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Freemasons, said:

“I’m very pleased we’ve been able to help Living Paintings with their hugely important project. It’s hard to think of a more essential skill than being able to read. Literacy is the key to education, future employment and the pleasure that comes from books lasts a lifetime. However, for blind and partially-sighted children learning to read is much more difficult than for those who are sighted. Living Paintings are giving a gift that will last a lifetime.”

Image: Camilla Oldland, Chief Executive Officer at Living Paintings, centre, and Peter Vosser from the Freemasons, right