Did someone say BRAILLE BITS?

What is Braille Bits did you ask? No worries, I would be happy to shed light on this question. Braille Bits is an introductory class that is flexible and convenient, supportive and structured in providing a fun, tiny size sampling of braille. You may want to call this dot learning experience, an appetizer of braille.

This online program is designed to teach braille to sighted people who have connections with braille readers. For example, teachers and parents are taught through a combination of visual representation of braille dot positions, through lessons, homework and a podcast. Did I mention Podcast? Prepare to be both entertained and delighted by listening to others share their love for braille.

What a thrill it is that this wonderful resource is made available. In addition to this, you are also supported by a mentor to see you through! By completing all 21 Braille Bits Lessons, you will receive an official Braille Bits Certificate of Completion just to say you did it!

For more Braille Bits information:
Braille Bits Introduction
Braille Bits Lessons
Braille Bits Podcast

Denise Bean


Braille Bits: Lesson 2 Podcast

Braille Bits is a correspondence-guided class conducted by the Library, providing braille lessons online or by mail.  This podcast highlights each Braille Bits lesson and features an interview with a special guest to discuss all things braille.  Check out the library’s IMC (Instructional Material Center’s) Blog for more information about Braille Bits.

BARD and BARD Express

BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) is a free library service of downloadable braille and audio reading material provided by the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS). BARD provides our patrons access to thousands of special-format books, magazines, and music scores. The site is password-protected. All files are downloadable as compressed audio or formatted ebraille files. BARD is a partnership between NLS and its network of cooperating libraries.

BARD Express provides patrons with an easy way to access BARD. Use BARD Express to browse thousands of audio books and magazines, download them to your Windows-based computer, and transfer them to a cartridge.

For more information on BARD and BARD Express go to our BARD information page and check out these videos on our YouTube channel.  Below is one of our videos on how to sign up for BARD.


Braille Bits Online

Legos spelling the word brailleStarting next week, on Mondays and Wednesdays at 2:00 pm we will start our Braille Bits Online program. It will be conducted over Zoom, an online meeting platform that is very easy to use. Join us twice a week for 45 minutes as we listen to a Braille Bits podcast and have a fun and lively conversations surrounding all things Braille. Please contact Denise Bean at 515.452.1338 for more information or to register.

You can also register by completing this registration form

January S.O.A.R. Saturday

1,000BooksLogoEditJoin us for January 26, 2019 join us for S.O.A.R. Saturday from 9:00am to 3:00pm at the Iowa Department for the Blind.  This S.O.A.R. Saturday will be held alongside our 2019 Regional Braille Challenge.

At this program, children and their families will learn about library and services that can help youth patrons become Successful, find Opportunities, develop Aspirations, and READ.

Register for January S.O.A.R. Saturday Here

During our January S.O.A.R. Saturday, we will have special activities throughout the day.  One of those activities will be The Mini Braille Challenge that will focus on the braille alphabet, tactile recognition and form words by using 2 to 3 letters. You will also get to braille your name by using the Perkins brailler and write a special note to share with a friend.

If you would like to learn more about the Braille Challenge take a look at our Braille Challenge page on this blog.

Whether you are participating in S.O.A.R. Saturday or the Braille Challenge – join us for a great day!

For more information, contact Lois Crozier at 515-281-1295 or lois.crozier@blind.state.ia.us.

2019 Iowa Regional Braille Challenge

BC 2019_Iowa_Dot T-shirtOur Regional Braille Challenge is held the last Saturday in January each year—January 26th for 2019. It will take place at the Iowa Department for the Blind. More information and registration forms will be available soon!  Watch our Braille Challenge page and postings on this blog for up-to-date information.

See our Instructional Materials Blog for more information

What Is the Braille Challenge?

The Braille Challenge is the only academic competition of its kind in North America for students who are blind or visually impaired. Braille Institute developed the Braille Challenge to motivate students to practice and hone their braille literacy skills, which are essential to academic and employment success.

Any blind or visually impaired student in grades 1 – 12 who can read and write braille is eligible to participate in the Braille Challenge. All Contestants are divided into five categories and tested on fundamental braille skills such as reading comprehension, spelling, speed and accuracy, proofreading, and charts and graphs. Contests are proctored by volunteer Teachers of the Visually Impaired and scored locally by volunteer transcribers, based on national guidelines.

All students can compete in the preliminary Braille Challenge events, which are held from January through the end of March throughout the United States and Canada, but only the top 50 students (10 in each category) with the highest scores are invited to Los Angeles for the final round – two days of competition, camaraderie and fun!

For more information, please visit https://www.brailleinstitute.org/braille-challenge

Contest Age Groups

  • Apprentice—1st and 2nd grades
  • Freshman—3rd and 4th grades
  • Sophomore—5th and 6th grades
  • Junior Varsity—7th, 8th and 9th grades
  • Varsity—10th, 11th and 12th grades

Taking A Contest That Is Below A Student’s Grade Level

Only students who take the preliminary contest in contracted braille that corresponds to their age-appropriate academic grade level will be eligible to be invited to the Finals. However, to encourage full inclusion and maximum participation in the preliminary round, a student may take any level of contest. Also, the Apprentice preliminary contest is offered in uncontracted braille and also can be taken by students of any age.

Link for sample tests: https://www.brailleinstitute.org/braille-challenge/sample-contests

iBraille App

The iBraille App is a free app created to bring braille and digital literacy together. Through the app, using an iPad and a refreshable braille display, students can practice and hone their braille literacy skills anywhere, anytime! Visit https://www.brailleinstitute.org/ibraille-challenge-app

Please encourage your students to join in the Braille Challenge on January 26th!!

Alphabet and Number Soup

You may have noticed that the books in the library collection have letter and numbers assigned to them, this is called a Title ID.  The Title ID is a unique number proceeded by two or three letters.  They can be found in Talking Book Topics and the library’s online catalog.  Many library borrowers use these IDs when requesting books from the library.  Libraries use abc-blocksTitle IDs to add requests to patron accounts and to know where a book is located on the library’s shelves.

Here are some examples of what these letters and numbers mean; DB at the beginning means it is a digital book and BR at the beginning means it is a braille book produced by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS).  There are other prefixes that you might see as well.  A DBC and a BRC are books that were produced by cooperating libraries in the NLS network.  So, books that our library produced and made available to the network have the DBC or BRC Title ID.  An M indicates the book is part of the NLS Music collection, which consists of music scores, music instruction, and books about music.  DBO indicates a book that our library has recorded, but has not made available to other libraries in the NLS network.  BRN indicates a Braille book that the library has purchased from a vendor for the collection.

Here is a quick look at the Title IDs you might see in the library’s online catalog and what they can tell you about the book:

DB – Digital Book

BR – Braille Book

LT – Large Type Book

KIT – coming soon and will be used for early literacy kits that will be available for check out

3D – coming soon and will be used for 3D tactiles that will be available for check out

Popular Braille on BARD

BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) is a web-based service that provides access to thousands of special-format books, magazines, and music scores provided by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). If you need to set up a BARD account, please contact the library.

Here are some of the most popular braille books on BARD in the last 30 days:


Blue by Danielle Steel  BR21467

One summer by David Baldacci  BR21321

Away in a manager by Rhys Bowen  BR21405

The double by George P. Pelecanos  BR21399

Orphan train by Christina Baker Kline  BR21369

Non Fiction

The lost art of reading nature’s signs: use outdoor clues to find your way, predict the weather, track animals–and other forgotten skills by Tristan Gooley  BR21333

My kithen year:  136 recipes that saved my life by Ruth Reichl  BR21351

How to knit socks that fit:  techniques for toe-up and cuff-down styles  BR21486

The edge of the world:  a cultural history of the North Sea and transformation of Europe  BR21249

Blind:  a memoir by Belo Miguel Cipriani  BR21392


Most Popular On BARD

Did you know you can read books from BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) on your smart phone or tablet? It’s like having a book in your pocket!  Download the BARD app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store and start reading today. BARD is a web-based service that provides access to thousands of special-format books, magazines, and music scores provided by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). If you need to set up a BARD account, please contact the library.

Here are some of the most popular titles on BARD right now:

Digital Audiobooks

15th Affair by James Patterson DB84176

Extreme Prey by John Sandford DB84172

Find Her by Lisa Gardner DB83828

Robert B. Parker’s Slow Burn: a Spenser novel DB84138

Board Island: an Anna Pigeon novel by Nevada Barr DB84240


Unlucky by James Patterson BR20492

Depraved Heart: a Scarpetta novel BR21284

One Summer by David Baldacci BR21321

Whenever You Come Around by Robin Hatcher BR21190

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie BR03867

Enjoy the Freedom to Read Your Way!

NLSThe braille and talking book program is a free library service for people with temporary or permanent low vision, blindness, or a physical disability that prevents them from using regular print.

Patrons of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in the Library of Congress speak about the benefits of receiving free braille and talking books, magazines and music materials in the mail.

In this video, NLS patrons speak about the benefits of receiving free braille and talking books, magazines, and music materials in the mail: The freedom to read their way.

Here is more information about our library, a regional library of the National Library Service.