HANNI AND BETH: SAFE AND SOUND
by Beth Finke
Reading Level: Ages 4-8
Hanni, a Seeing Eye dog, narrates this tale that illustrates the trusting relationship between a guide dog and her handler. With Hanni’s help, Beth, who has a visual impairment due to diabetes, can go to work, travel, and attend sporting events knowing that she can get around safely. Hanni helps Beth walk across streets, dodge obstacles, and navigate crowded areas. Beth takes care of Hanni by giving her a loving home.
This straightforward book will help children understand that blindness doesn’t have to be a disability, especially with the help of a companion animal. Notes from Hanni and Beth will also help children understand the journey that each had to go through in order to become companions.
ASK: Do you know what a Seeing Eye dog is? These dogs are also called guide dogs or companion animals. Find out a little more about these special animals before you read this book.
SHOW: Look at the pictures of Hanni and Beth on the front and back covers. Notice Hanni’s special harness. What do you think this is for?
CONNECT: Have you ever seen a Seeing Eye dog? Where did you see her and how was she helping her handler? Do you have a dog? Do you think your dog could help you get around?
ASK: How does Hanni keep Beth safe during the day? What senses does Hanni need to use to help Beth?
SHOW: Look at the pictures of Hanni guiding Beth.
CONNECT: How is the way that Hanni takes care of Bath similar to how your parents or friends take care of you, or how you help others? For example, have you ever helped a younger child or elderly person cross a street or perform a task? Imagine what kind of help you would need if you could not see or hear or if you could not move easily.
ASK: How are Hanni and Beth partners and friends? How do they work together, and what special things do they do for each other?
SHOW: Look at the pictures of Hanni and Beth together.
CONNECT: How are you and your friends also partners? How do you help each other?
- Guide dogs are working animals. This means that when they are helping their owners, they are at their job. That’s why it’s important to learn the following rules:
- If you meet a guide dog team, ask first if you can pet the guide dog.
- Do not pet a guide dog without permission from the handler first!
- If the guide dog handler says “No,” respect his or her wishes.
- If the dog is “off duty,” usually his owner will let you pet him with permission. But always ask first! Then approach the dog the same way you would any strange dog. Extend your hand gently with your fingers curled in let the dog sniff your hand and tell you if he wants to be pet or not.
- Look for a guide dog organization in your area. Find ways to volunteer or donate. For example, these organizations often have families raise a guide dog while she is a puppy and train her to do basic tasks in preparation for being assigned to a person in need. A few national organizations are Guide Dogs of America, The Seeing Eye, Guide Dogs for the Blind, and Guiding Eyes for the Blind.
- In addition to having special dogs to help them get places, those with a visual impairment also have a special alphabet that helps them read. This alphabet is called Braille. It is made up of dots that are raised off a piece of paper, so a person can feel them. All letters are made up of a combination of six dots. For more information, go to the Monroe County Women's Disability Network page webpage on Braille. Practice writing your name in Braille.
- Many states protect the rights of those with visual impairments to keep their guide dogs at work, in their homes, and at schools, but many states do not have clear-cut laws. For example, some people may try to bar blind people from taking their dogs onto buses or into restaurants, where pets are usually prohibited. Find out how the rights of these people and dogs are protected in your state. If they aren’t, write to your state senator or representative and ask him or her to introduce a bill.
- Write a story or a long poem where Hanni and Beth are the heroes. Remember to include a conflict and a resolution in your story.
- Do research at the library or on the internet to discover what other animals, besides dogs, work as guides. Be sure to find out what special characteristics the animals possess that equip them for this important work. Create a poster with your research findings about guide animals, and use the poster to share your findings with your family and friends.