SANDPOINT — Sixteen-year-old Josh Holub has never read a book but he will as soon as he masters Braille, a written language for the blind.
And thanks to a $2,500 grant from the Panhandle Alliance for Education, there’s now a novel in the Lake Pend Oreille Alternative High School library waiting for that day — although Josh’s book is unlike any other on the shelves.
Gary Paulsen’s adventure novel “Brian’s Winter” is a relatively short, 176-page book. The Braille version is four times its size and 2 inches thicker. It has to be. Each page contains dozens of grid patterns of raised dots, representing letters of the alphabet, numbers and punctuation marks.
Josh will one day read the novel by moving his fingers over those patterns to discern words and sentences. He’s not entirely blind but reading words in novels and textbooks is nearly impossible and the eyestrain could trigger a seizure. He views the world through a small tunnel in the upper right quadrant of his eye.
During elementary school, Holub dutifully checked out books with his classmates on library day but “it was pointless for me because they’re for sighted people,” he said. “I wanted to check out a book that I can actually read.”
His desire to check out and read a book from his high school library inspired the grant request, which was written by librarian Sandy Lange. The grant will pay for a section of audio, Braille and large-print books, and a magnifier for sight-impaired students or those with dyslexia. They’re currently selecting and ordering books.
The new addition will be called the “Josh Section,” and he’s proud that his actions inspired the school to find a solution, because students in the future who need reading resources will have them.
Lake Pend’s library materials budget is $400 annually; Sandpoint’s is $4,100 and Clark Fork is $560. “It has been the practice at Lake Pend Oreille School District to set the amounts via a formula based on school enrollment. Some districts follow a similar process and others determine allocations other ways,” said Brian Walllace, the district’s CFO.
Josh enjoys listening to mystery novels, history and nonfiction books. And he loves the Kansas City Chiefs and 1980s music. He recently attended an REO Speedwagon concert.
The first sight-impaired student
Josh is Lake Pend high school’s first sight-impaired student. He attends the alternative school because of the 14 to 1, student to teacher ratio. There are about 90 students in the school. He will spend a portion of his high school years learning Braille and developing academic independence.
“He forced us to change and think outside the box, finding a way to adapt and create meaningful, rigorous education for him,” said principal Luke Childers.
Rachael Osborne, a vision specialist paraprofessional, works exclusively with Josh, attending classes and translating assignments into Braille and large print. She’s working to attain a national certification in Braille.
Childers describes his school as a big family. Providing rigorous instruction and ensuring he engaged with the student population and the school culture were concerns, he said.
“If you’re not part of the family, it doesn’t work as well. And I believe that’s worked out very well for him. He’s engaged with other students and staff members to a high level, and we’re meeting him where he’s at and providing rigor for him,” Childers said.