Braille Monitor                                                                    October 2006

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Braille Readers Are Leaders 2006 Wrap-up

by John Faherty

Hannah Weatherd of Wyoming models clay during the Art-Is-for-Everyone youth workshop during the 2006 convention.

From the Editor: Each year from November through January, Braille-reading kids around the country grab all the Braille publications they can find to increase the count of pages they have read in the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest. A generation of kids have now grown up sharpening their Braille skills with this contest.

In an effort to encourage these kids to do more than sit quietly and read in their spare time, the contest sponsors have added a second component to the contest for older students. This is an invitation to engage in community service. The contest forms now include instructions for participants to describe community service projects that have helped them become Braille leaders as well as good Braille readers.

Following is the report of the 2006 contest and the nomination materials for this year's Braille Leader Community Service Award winner, Hannah Weatherd, of Wyoming. Here it is:

After twenty-three years the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest is still going strong. In 2006 close to 350 blind students of all ages and from all over the nation participated in the contest, reading a combined total of over 450,000 pages. Top readers Dionne Dyer, Leah Grinder, and Daniel Dintzner each read over 7,500 pages in the three-month-long contest. Additionally, this year four students were selected and acknowledged for their outstanding community service and promotion of Braille Literacy and what it means to be blind. While the community service award is still new to the contest, we hope that in coming years more Braille readers will take that next step to being Braille leaders as well. We congratulate Hannah Weatherd--Community Service Winner--and Kristin McCoy, Estin Talavara, and Andrew Nantz--Community Service Honorable Mentions.

Along with the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille joint awards and recognitions, some states and local schools honored their own Braille readers. The state of Pennsylvania held a special awards ceremony last spring for its state and St. Lucy's Day School for the Blind, awarding savings bonds to top readers, and the NFB of Maryland invited participants from the state and the Maryland School for the Blind to a party and awards ceremony, where they were given extra recognition from the state. Other participating communities are honoring their students as well.

Rhode Island's publication, the Valley Breeze, printed an article honoring seven-year-old John "JW" Frampton's accomplishment, having read 1,449 pages and earning top honors in the K-1 contest. In Delaware W. Reilly Brown Elementary School honored fourth-grade participant Larry Byler for reading 4,901 pages (approximately fifty-two pages a day) during the contest, with a write-up in its Good News publication.

The 2007 contest commences November 1 and runs through January 31. After this year's outstanding results, our Braille Readers and Leaders promise to impress again in 2007 with their next stack of books. Congratulations again to all!

Here are the nomination letters submitted in support of Hannah Weatherd, the winner of the 2006 Braille Leaders Community Service Award:

February 9, 2006

To Whom It May Concern:

This letter is to serve as a nomination of Hannah Weatherd for the Braille Leaders Community Service Award. Hannah recently directed the Saratoga Elementary Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) program to over 180 children in Saratoga, Wyoming. Hannah introduced herself and spoke at length to the large student body on February 2, 2006. The children submitted a list of all the unusual places they had ever read a book before, and then Hannah read aloud back to them, in Braille, what they had written. The children, ranging in age from three to eleven, were very impressed about her skills and fascinated with this different learning style.

In addition to being the guest speaker, Hannah had prepared several jokes in Braille for the children to decode. She engaged the children by handing out a Braille alphabet card for each child to use to decode text written in Braille. They got to keep the Braille alphabet cards as bookmarks too. She further enriched the program by having a Braille machine on hand for the children to observe her using. Hannah also Brailled 180 name tags (one for each child) so they could put their own name in Braille format inside the free books they received at the RIF.

The Saratoga Elementary RIF program definitely benefited from Hannah's being so involved with RIF distribution. She was organized, had lots of great ideas on how to make the program work, actually completed the Braille work herself, and went above and beyond what was expected of her. This was a huge responsibility for a seventh-grader. I definitely feel Hannah Weathered is worthy of the Braille Leaders Community Service Award.

Sincerely,
Lisa Armentrout
Committee Chair
Saratoga Elementary RIF

December 22, 2005

To Whom It May Concern:

I would like to recommend Hannah Weatherd as a Braille Leaders Community Service Award recipient. I am Hannah's pastor and our local Cub Scout pack leader. Our Webelos den has been working on the communication pin. One of the requirements is to invite a person who communicates in sign language, Braille, or other means.

Hannah was very responsive to help our boys learn about Braille. She came prepared to our designated den meeting on December 5, 2005, to teach the boys about Braille and also how to read it and write it. After explaining the need for Braille and its history, she shared how it changes people's lives. She also demonstrated her Braille writing with the stylus and on her Braille machine and the technology available. She gave each Scout a Braille alphabet card and let the boys try to write with the stylus and machine.

The boys caught on very quickly with Hannah's help. They also attempted to read some of the Braille books that Hannah brought with her. In my opinion this was a great learning experience for our Scouts and me and a tremendous service Hannah provided to our community in helping us to better understand the challenges of someone who is not sighted, but also to see how they can overcome them. She has become an inspiration to us all.

Pastor Gene Smith

Here is the text of a brief newspaper article that appeared on February 8, 2006, in the Saratoga Sun.

Beta Sigma Phi gives away 170 books

Saratoga Elementary students marveled during a Reading is Fundamental program when Hannah Weatherd demonstrated how to read Braille.

Weatherd is in seventh grade at Saratoga Middle School and has been using Braille since she was three. The previous week students had been asked where they like to read. The answers were typed in Braille, and Weatherd read them for the classes. A Braillewriter was on display for the children to experiment with, and each student received their name written out in Braille on a name tag.
The Saratoga RIF program is sponsored by the Alpha Sigma Beta Phi Sorority. The sorority donates books to Saratoga Elementary three times a year as a service project. Each visit around 180 to 190 books are given away. The books are chosen for differing age ranges and difficulty levels.

These letters and this news story demonstrate the impact a Braille-reading student willing to undertake community service can have on the lives and understanding of an entire town. Let's encourage all the blind students we know to take part in the Braille Readers Are Leaders program this year and to engage in community service as a part of their effort.

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