Future Reflections April/May/June 1985, Vol. 4 No. 2
A Report on the 1984-85 NFB Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest
Well, it's over. No more will teachers hear eager little voices exclaim as the school day begins, "How many pages have I read so far?" No more will parents wake at 4:00 a.m. to the sound of rustling Braille pages. No more will students gather together to compare notes: "I've read pages, how many have you read?", or "Did you read ? Isn't it a great book!"
Yes, the National Federation of the Blind BRAILLE READERS ARE LEADERS Braille reading contest for children -- co-sponsored by the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille and the NFB Parents of Blind Children Division is over. Pages have been counted, numbers tallied, winners notified, and prizes awarded.
But is it really over? According to winner Darren Daly's teacher and mother, seven-year-old Darren is still counting pages (his mother laughed as she said he may still be counting pages years from now). But "counting pages" is a small price to pay for what Darren is now doing because of the contest...reading Braille and loving it! Before the contest, Mrs. Elizabeth Nolan (Darren's vision Teacher) said Darren was very bright, but not thrilled about reading. She really wanted to find something to motivate him. When she learned about the contest, she "convinced" Darren to enter. But once he entered, he "really took off with it." And the exciting thing is that Darren is continuing to read with joy and pleasure. (Darren was the second place winner in the kindergarten through first grade category.)
Teachers we have talked to indicate that Darren's experience was not unique Many teachers used the contest as a motivator.
Jill Patton had three children in the contest. "They motivated each other," she said. It was not so much a competitive thing as it was a sharing thing for them, she explained. They would compare notes, not just about the number of pages read (although that was done) but about what books they had read, which ones they liked best and why. Ms. Patton said that one particularly unmotivated boy was much encouraged by the other children in the contest.
Third place winner in the K-l category, nine-year-old Many Ry, was one of Ms. Patton's students. Many Ry came to the United States three years ago with her parents from Cambodia. None of them spoke English at the time. Her parents still do not. Many was reading at a at a second grade level when she entered the contest and by the end of the contest she was reading at a high third grade level. More importantly, she was understanding more and more of what she read. She was also able to graduate out of her English as Second Language class. Many is bright and motivated. The contest alone cannot account for her progress, but her teacher believes it was an important factor.
Sometimes parents gained some unexpected knowledge out of the contest, too. Margaret Prior, mother of twelveyearold winner Nancy, discovered how difficult it is to get Braille books. Because of the contest, Nancy has now read all the Braille books in her age group that are available from her Regional Library for the Blind. (It is a sad commentary on the state of Braille production in this country that Nancy faces the prospect of having few, if any, Braille books to read in the coming year.)
Despite such drawbacks, parents, children, and teachers feel that the contest was a very good thing. One teacher expressed the hope that the contest would become a "tradition". Winner Aimee Massey's mother thought the contest was a "great idea" and that it was exciting for Aimee to know that she could be rewarded for something she already liked to do. Resource teacher Betty Kepner thought that the contest definitely sharpened winner Jessica Carter's Braille skills.
The contest also helped build pride and self-esteem among contestants. When Chris Aldred entered the contest, he never dreamed of winning. Chris is paralyzed in one arm and can only read Braille with one hand (good speed is generally only obtained when both hands are used to read Braille). But he wanted to enter and show his family and friends that he could do it, that he could successfully complete a project. Because of his persistence, he not only finished, but won first place in the grades 9-12 category. Chris is now stopped on the street and congratulated by strangers who have seen his picture, and read the story of his success, in the local paper.
Chris, like all the other 124 contestants, has learned that it is respectable to read Braille it is respectable to be blind.
To demonstrate our belief that all the contestants were "winners", each one received a Braille card which read: You are a "Blue Ribbon" Winner! You read Braille. Braille Reader's are Leaders 1984-1985.
Third place winners within each of the five categories received a certificate and blue T-shirt with the NFB logo and these words printed on it: "I'M A WINNER! BRAILLE READERS ARE LEADERS". First and second place winners received a certificate and a Tshirt, and in addition received $50.00 and $25.00 cash respectively.
Whenever possible, local members of the National Federation of the Blind helped arrange to have the prizes awarded during the end of the year school award ceremonies, or made arrangements for special presentations at school board meetings or NFB chapter meetings. Many contestants received extensive publicity from local papers and TV stations as well as school newsletters.
The National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB) and the Parents of Blind Children Division of the National Federation of the Blind proudly announce the winners of the 1984-85 Braille Readers are Leaders contest.
**Beginning Print to Braille Reader
(This was for the child who began reading
print then, because of decreased
vision or sudden blindness, switched to Braille within the past two years.)
FIRST PLACE: Laura Gail Dunlapage 12; 4,588pages
Norristown High School
SECOND PLACE: Wendy Szymczak age 9; 1,189 pages
THIRD PLACE: Laura Felty age 16; 562 pages
Kentucky School for the Blind
South Shore, Kentucky
**Kindergarten and First Grade
FIRST PLACE: Jessica Carter age 7; 1,006 pages
SECOND PLACE: Darren Daly age 7; 532 pages
St. Lucy Day School
THIRD PLACE: Brook N. Sexton age 6; 434 pages
Castro Valley Elementary
**Second to Fourth Grade
FIRST PLACE: Aimee S. Massey age 8; 6,800 pages
West Seaford Elementary
SECOND PLACE: Ryan Coverdale age 10; 4,824 pages
THIRD PLACE: Many Ry age 9; 4,430 pages
San Francisco, California
**Fifth to Eighth Grade
FIRST PLACE: Nancy Prior age 12; 4, 910 pages
Baseline Junior High
SECOND PLACE: Kristie Szedlak age 15; 4,508 pages
Gardner Junior High
THIRD PLACE: Jennifer Benson age 10; 4,219 pages
**Ninth to Twelfth Grade
FIRST PLACE: Chris Aldred age 20; 4,573 pages
LaGrande High School
SECOND PLACE: Andrea Wheeler age 15; 3, 947 pages
Park Rapids Area High
Park Rapids, Minnesota
THIRD PLACE: Robert Englebretson age 14; 3,542 pages
Mira Loma High School