by Natalie Shaheen
From the Editor: As blind people we know that Braille literacy is one of the keys to success for blind adults. The annual Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest embodies our commitment to literacy for blind children. Contest organizer Natalie Shaheen reports here on the 2010-2011 competition:
For almost three decades the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC), and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB) have encouraged blind children across the country to be proud of their ability to read Braille. The Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest challenges them to improve their reading skills. The children who participated in the contest back in the early years have grown up to be adults with careers and families. Many of them have assumed leadership roles within our organization.
For the past several years the program has followed the same basic timeline. Students preregister for the contest in October. The reading period--the portion of the contest when the students put their Braille skills to work--runs from November 1 to January 4, Louis Braille's birthday. Throughout the reading period the participants keep track of the number of Braille pages they have read. At the conclusion of the reading period the judges review the reports that the students submit. They determine the top three winners in each category and the winners of the special awards.
Last fall over six hundred students from forty-two states registered for the contest. Between the categories, special awards, and Team of the Year Award, twenty-eight contestants won prizes in the K-12 competition. These twenty-eight students come from twelve states, and many of them have been winners in previous years. Here is a full list of the winners in the 2010-2011 K-12 contest and the number of pages read by each one.
Andrea Cordero-Perez, AZ, 1,638 pages
Camille O'Neill, NE, 1,356 pages
Aunya Anderson, GA, 1,112 pages
Christian Adams, IN, 18,584 pages
Alayna Hall, IN, 15,425 pages
Taengkwa Sturgell, IN, 9,469 pages
Ahbee Orton, TX, 14,051 pages
Noah Mondor, IN, 12,073 pages
Rosanna Scott, AR, 11,393 pages
Lucas Leiby, PA, 9,846 pages
Vejas Vasiliauskas, CA, 9,655 pages
Julianna Reala, NY, 6,595 pages
Jonathan Wong, CA, 15,754 pages
Daniel Dintzner, MA, 14,254 pages
Destiny DiMattei, MD, 11,304 pages
Community Service Awards
The Community Service Awards are presented to participants who performed a service within the community with the help of their Braille skills. Johnathan Welscott served as an announcer for the athletic department of his middle school. He used Braille notes that included game night rosters and the names of game officials. Chris Mossberger researched local businesses that he could ask for donations to help families of blind children attend the NFB national convention in Orlando. He composed a Braille letter requesting donations and transferred it to the computer so it could be printed.
Johnathan Welscott, MI, eighth grade
Chris Mossberger, IN, ninth grade
Jennifer Baker Awards
These awards are given to contest participants who have met special challenges in order to learn and use Braille.
Christian Adams, IN, third grade
Andrea Cordero-Perez, AZ, first grade
Taengkwa Sturgell, IN, third grade
Twin Vision® Awards
These awards are granted to students who are learning to read both Braille and print.
Bryanna Daniels, CA, seventh grade
Amber Steet, TX, twelfth grade
Danielle Sturgeon, MA, seventh grade
Jessica Vaughan, IN, third grade
This year six teams competed for the title Braille Readers Are Leaders Team of the Year. The Chinese Phoenix Readers rose above all of the others. This team consisted of four fourth-grade girls from Texas, Arkansas, and Michigan, all of them adoptees from China. The team's original goal was to read 20,000 pages. The Chinese Phoenix Readers blew right past their goal, reading a total of almost 34,000 pages as a group. Through a Facebook page and frequent phone calls, the girls kept each other and their fans up to date on their progress throughout the contest. As Team of the Year, the Chinese Phoenix Readers become the spokespersons for the 2011-2012 Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest.
Chinese Phoenix Readers
Ahbee Orton, TX, fourth grade
Rosanna Scott, AR, fourth grade
Jenna Scott, AR, fourth grade
Calli Bowman-Tomlinson, MI, fourth grade
Team's Total Pages: 33,828
National Convention Trip
In addition to the standard contest, an essay contest was conducted to select twelve students to win a trip to the NFB national convention. Each of these twelve winners, along with a parent or guardian, had the opportunity to attend the convention. They were recognized at various meetings, and some of them even got the chance to speak publicly. Best of all, the students met thousands of other blind people, young and old. They formed friendships and mentoring relationships that will last for many years.
The following students attended the national convention through the Braille Readers Are Leaders program:
Aunya Anderson, GA, grade 1
Andrea Cordero-Perez, AZ, grade 1
Bryanna Daniels, CA, grade 7
Noah Mondor, IN, grade 4
Ahbee Orton, TX, grade 4
Julianna Reala, NY, grade 7
Rosanna Scott, AR, grade 4
Taengkwa Sturgell, IN, grade 3
Danielle Sturgeon, MA, grade 7
Jessica Vaughan, IN, grade 3
Johnathan Welscott, MI, grade 8
Chris Mossberger, IN, grade 9
We are approaching the thirtieth anniversary of the start of the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest. We are looking for feedback from current and former participants, as well as their teachers and parents. We want to know what you love about the contest, what you wish could be done differently, and what you would like us to add to the program.
It is of the utmost importance to us that our programs serve our members. Your feedback can ensure that we meet this goal. Please sign up today for the 2011-2012 contest, and send us your feedback at <www.nfb.org/BRAL>.