Friday, April 26, 2013

Child of the Silent Night

Quite some time ago we studied Helen Keller.  Then my Dad invited us to see a production of The Miracle Worker at a local theater in Jasper.  The girls loved the play, so I borrowed the movie for them to watch.  We have subsequently read some short books about Helen, as well as her teacher Anne Sullivan.  Ms. Sullivan attended the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston.  They act out scenes from the play and talk about Helen Keller frequently.

So I was thrilled when I found this chapter book, Child of the Silent Night by Edith Fisher Hunter, about another deaf and blind little girl:

The book relates the true story of Laura Bridgman, who suffered from scarlet fever when she was a two year old.  That fever left her deaf and blind.  She lived in the country and one of their neighbors took her on walks frequently to allow her to touch leaves, bark, small animals, etc.  The book does a great job of explaining how little aspects of life would be different if you were unable to hear or see.

I was particularly impressed that Laura, who was deaf and blind, was able to set the table for dinner at the age of seven.  My girls can barely set the table now, and they have all of their senses.  Yet another book that makes me feel that I am not teaching my kids to do enough around the house!

Eventually Laura goes to live at the Perkins Institute in Boston, where she is one of the first deaf and blind students they have.  Some of the techniques developed to teach her were later used with Helen Keller, fifty years later!

Robby was able to listen to me read this story to the girls.  He kept asking "Why have we never heard of Laura Bridgman but have heard of Helen Keller?"  Good question.  I guess the easy answer is that Hollywood made a movie about Helen, but not Laura.  Their stories are quite similar.  This was a good lesson for the girls - that there are other people who exist in the world who are deaf and blind.  Not just Helen Keller.

About ten years ago I went to the Netherlands for two weeks.  Like every other American, I had read Anne Frank's Diary.  So, like every other American tourist, I visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.  It was, of course, very moving to see the small rooms in which Anne and her family resided until they were taken to the concentration camps.  What impressed me more, however, is that all over the Netherlands there are other World War II era houses which you can visit which housed secret rooms in which Jews hid from the Nazis. 

For some odd reason, it never crossed my mind until I saw all those other secret rooms in other houses that the Franks were just one of many families all over the Netherlands, and Europe, who had to hide from the Nazis.  Because she happened to keep a diary, and her father happened to survive the concentration camps and publish it, we have all heard of Anne Frank.  But her story is not unique.  It is simply well known. 

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