The Braille Monitor                                                                                                  July 2005

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Braille Readers Making a Difference

by Barbara Pierce

Andrew Nantz reading Braille
Andrew Nantz reading Braille

                For twenty-two years now we have been working to teach blind kids that Braille readers really are leaders. The contest jointly sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille has encouraged young Braille readers to read as much Braille as they can get their hands on. Our message is at last being heard, and many of our blind kids are entering the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest on November 1 each year and are reading what seems to many of us astonishing amounts of Braille between then and February 1.

††††††††††† This is great news, and all of our contest entrants are to be congratulated for their efforts. But our intention has never been just to encourage Braille reading; it has been to encourage blind youngsters to become leaders as well. So this year for the first time the reading contest incorporated an additional element. Older youth were also invited to compete for an award for community service. Braille reading speed is important, but getting out and using Braille and our other skills to help the people around us is even more important.

††††††††††† In the 2005 Braille Readers Are Leaders contest a handful of students stepped forward to compete in this leadership component. The winner was Andrew Nantz of Imbler in Union County, Oregon. Andrew has just completed the eighth grade. Here are the two letters of support that he submitted. After reading them you will understand why Andrew is the 2005 winner of the Braille Leaders Community Service Award. Here are the letters his supporters submitted:

            To Whom It May Concern:

††††††††††† It gives me great pleasure to write this letter of recommendation for Mr. Andrew Nantz. Andrew, an eighth grader here at Imbler Junior and Senior High School, has spearheaded a fundraising effort for victims of the recent tsunami. Andrew came to me for permission to run a class competition to raise money to send to Northwest Medical Teams to help the tsunami victims. It was his idea for the class that brings in the most money in a weekís period to be rewarded with a pizza party.

††††††††††† Andrew contracted with the owner of New York Richie's, a popular restaurant in town, to see if he would be willing to donate the pizzas to the winning class. He explained all the details and what the money was going towards. Richie was more than happy to help Andrew in his cause.

††††††††††† I had Andrew provide all the information to our student body, which was read over the intercom during morning daily announcements. The response was overwhelming; within a week our school along with our grade school brought in a total of $1,623. The city of Imbler got involved and also donated $250, making the total of over $1,800. According to the local newspaper article every school in our county had raised money to send, which was a commendable effort for kids throughout Union County. But the most rewarding part for Imbler Schools was that we were able to raise the most money. It all started with the little blind eighth grader with a very big heart.

Sincerely,

Mike Mills, K-12 Principal
Imbler Schools

               To Whom It May Concern:

††††††††††† I would like to congratulate and honor Andrew Nantz, who visited my second grade classroom in November for National Children's Book Week. Andrew was one of our special guest readers for the week, and he read Brailled copies of two of his favorite Frog and Toad stories. It was exciting for the students, and they were very impressed with Andrew's reading. I was equally pleased as I was Andrew's teacher in second grade when he first got serious about his Braille reading. What a joy to see him now. He read with wonderful expression, and he was very fluent. The students were listening to every word, and though I worried about their attention span without pictures, it was not a problem.

††††††††††† Not only did Andrew read both of the short chapter books, but he also gave the students some inspirational tips on why it was important to become a good reader and how being able to read and comprehend would help them when they got up into junior and senior high school. As an extra reminder he let them know that, when their parents told them to read or to do their homework, they should just do it without any complaints because they were just trying to help them and it would pay off later.

††††††††††† Andrew settled into our special reading rocker and was comfortable in his role as story teller/reader. He interacted with the students and asked them questions as he went along, and he really seemed to enjoy being the teacher. At the end of our time together, he shared his Braille books and even got his science and history books out of his bag to share with us. The students were amazed at the size of the books and understood why he had a suitcase to lug them back and forth to class.

††††††††††† It was a great experience for all of us and one I hope to repeat next year. Andrew will always be welcome in my classroom.

Becki McIntosh

††††††††††† The Braille Readers Are Leaders contest forms are now available from the NFB Materials Center. Letís all do what we can to inspire older students to meet Andrew Nantzís challenge to become community leaders as well as reading lots of Braille. Order forms by email at <nfbstore@nfb.org> or by calling (410) 659-9314.

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