The Braille Monitor October, 2003
Braille Readers Are Leaders Expands Program
by Barbara Cheadle
The Braille Readers Are Leaders contest is a national contest for Braille students, kindergarten through twelfth grades. It is sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB); both organizations are affiliated divisions of the National Federation of the Blind. From November 1 to February 1, parents, teachers, or librarians help students keep track of the number of Braille pages they read of extracurricular material. At the end of the three months, thirty-five students from six different categories earn recognition and cash prizes as the top winners. Students who read five hundred or more Braille pages for the contest are also honored with special Braille ribbons, and all contestants receive recognition for participation.
Since 1984 the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest has inspired thousands of blind students to read more Braille. In 1994 a special award was instituted for participating schools for the blind, and in 1998 an outstanding teacher or librarian was first selected for public recognition of his or her support for the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest.
The dramatic increase in recent years in the number of students who participate and the letters and comments we receive from teachers and parents demonstrate that the program is a success. However, we are not content to rest on our laurels. As NOPBC and NAPUB laid plans to celebrate twenty years of promoting Braille through the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest, we also considered the next twenty years. What more could we do to promote Braille literacy?
We listened to teachers and parents and concluded that Braille Readers Are Leaders needed to be more than a contest; somehow it needed to include the kids who weren't reading yet--the prereaders or emergent readers. It is common knowledge that the foundation for literacy skills and the motivation to learn to read are laid down years before a child begins formal reading instruction.
Thanks to a grant from UPS, the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest has expanded. It is now the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest and Literacy Program for Braille Readers and Pre-readers. Beginning November 1, 2003, Braille Readers Are Leaders will include the first annual BRL Reading Pals--a noncompetitive Braille literacy program for blind infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and older students with reading delays.
The goal of this program is to encourage parents to read aloud to their child a minimum of fifteen minutes a day during the three-month period beginning November 1, 2003, and concluding February 1, 2004. Upon registering for BRL Reading Pals, parents will receive a three-month reading journal, a print/Braille children's book, a Reading Pal (a small beanie-baby-style stuffed animal), instructions about how to complete the program, a resource list for children's print/Braille books, and tips on how to promote a positive attitude about Braille and reading. At the conclusion of the program the parent and child will receive a certificate of completion and a special prize they can share together. Teachers or other adults, such as grandparents, may also register a child for this program. However, the adult must have regular and frequent opportunities to read aloud with the child.
To request contest entry forms or the BRL Reading Pals registration forms, please complete and send the following information to Braille Readers Are Leaders, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230; e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>; (410) 659-9314 ext. 361.