Braille Monitor December 1986
by Barbara Cheadle
Someone once said, "Eternity is a terrible thought. I mean, Where's it going to end?"
That's the way most of us feel whenever we think about the downward spiral in the use and availability of Braille. Where will it end? How can we get teachers to teach Braille? How can we get more Braille? How can we get blind children to read Braille? How can we make Braille respectable again?
Well, the Parents of Blind Children Division of the NFB and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille got together two years ago and came up with an exciting project to help battle this alarming decline in the use and respectability of Braille. In 1984 we announced our first annual Braille Reading Contest for Blind Children and boldly proclaimed that "Braille Readers Are Leaders". That contest was a wonderful success. We followed it with another in 1985-86 and are now ready to launch our third contest for the 1986-87 year.
The obvious purpose of the contest is simple; get more blind children to read Braille and to read more of it. We reasoned that reading speed and proficiency would increase if blind kids just read more. We also hoped that children who didn't enjoy reading would discover, just by participating in the contest, that Braille was fun and was also a valuable skill.
That is what we hoped would happen, and it did! Teachers and parents now say that their blind children and students are reading more Braille and enjoying it more, just because of the NFB contest. One teacher was stunned at the number of pages one of her students read. She really hadn't believed that the student could do so well. Other teachers are thrilled with the progress their students make. The contest motivates the students to start reading, they say, but soon the reward is simply in reading Braille itself. Parents learn, too. One parent told us that it had not occurred to them that Braille could be read for fun and pleasure. Her son, who once only read school assignments, now reads extensively for his own pleasure and information. Another parent said she hadn't realized how little was available in Braille until her daughter entered the contest.
The best result of all is that through this contest we are demonstrating to these blind children, to their parents, teachers, friends, and other members of their community, that it is respectable to be blind. The techniques the blind may use--such as Braille--are not inferior substitutes, but viable alternatives. Blind people, we say, can compete on a basis of equality. Because of the NFB and this contest, more blind children are now getting the confidence and skills they need to compete. When we publicize the contest, we are also helping educate the public and making it possible for all blind persons to have more opportunities.
Like the previous contests, the 198687 contest is open to all blind school age children in kindergarten through twelfth grades. The contest begins December 1, 1986, and ends March 1, 1987. Registration forms are to be sent in at the beginning of the contest, and official entry forms are due no later than March 10, 1987.
Children compete in one of five categories, and first, second, and third place winners are selected from each catagory. The winners recieve cash prizes of $50.00, $25.00, and $5.00; special T-shirts proclaiming "I'm A Winner. Braille Readers Are Leaders"; and certificates. Every contestant receives a Braille certificate and a ribbon just for entering.
Federationists can help promote and publicize the contest by seeing to it that contest entry forms are distributed widely to teachers, parents, and librarians in their city or state.
Whenever possible, we arrange for Federationists publicly to present the awards to the winners. If you have contestants or winners in your area, make sure that they get proper recognition at school awards ceremonies, your state convention, local chapter meetings, or any other appropriate occasion.
Also, contact the newspapers and other news media in your area about contestants or winners in your community. The contest is an excellent opportunity to get the NFB name and philosophy out to the public. Because of the nationwide attention that is now being focused on illiteracy in the U.S., this would be an especially good time to catch the media's attention about 3raille and the problem of illiteracy among blind children.
To get entry forms or more information about the contest, write or call; Betty Nicely, President, NAPUB, 3618 Dayton Ave., Louisville, KY 40207; phone (work) 502-897-6439 or (home) 502-897-2632. You may also contact: Barbara Cheadle, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, MD 21230; (301 )659-9314or at home, 301-644-4149.