Future Reflections Winter 1992, Vol. 11 No. 1

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NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND

       RECOGNIZES BRAILLE READERS

                   by Sandy and John Halverson

[PICTURE] Jamie Weedman of Kentucky shows off one of his prizes- a Tshirt which tells the world "I WON!"

[PICTURE] Most improved winner, Christina Shorten, recieves her award from Sharon Maneki, President of the NFB of Maryland, which a proud Mom (Terri), Dad (Dave), and baby brother look on.

148 students representing 32 states plus Canada read a total of 18,300 pages in our 1990-91 Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest. This annual event is sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind Parents of Blind Children Division and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille.

What an exciting time it was for us in our first year as the contest judges! The Post Office must have wondered what kind of business we were engaged in when the mailbag of entry forms, book lists, and letters left at our door was followed by overnight deliveries from parents and other certifying authorities desperately trying to comply with the contest deadline.

The letters from parents and teachers made it worth the burial of our dining room table as the real work of judging began—from unopened envelopes to piles of categorized and alphabetized entry forms and book lists. Letters like the following also put things into perspective on those days when the paper shuffle seemed never-ending.

Dear Mrs. Halverson:

Thank you, thank you for this wonderful contest! What a great way to motivate kids to read Braille. When my daughter Cathy entered kindergarten in 1988 she was able to read regular print by using low vision lenses. But because we knew her eye condition could change, we insisted that Braille instruction be included in her I.E.P. It was, and she learned enough Braille that first year so she could read letters, numbers, punctuation, and single letter contractions. During the summer following her kindergarten year, Cathy's vision changed so that she was no longer able to read regular print and could only read print which was written in heavy black ink. Because we realized that the world does not have a great supply of material written in large letters and thick black lines, we had a statement added to her I.E.P. which mandated that her classroom materials and textbooks be provided in Braille.

The school district was not really prepared to comply with this, and the Braille which Cathy got during first grade was often inadequate. For this reason and also because she was coping with the changes in her vision in many areas of her life, she resisted Braille with an incredible degree of stubbornness. This resistance continued throughout first grade and through this past summer. She had learned most Grade 2 [Braille], but would only read when it was absolutely necessary, and even then with a good deal of complaint.

When I saw your contest described in Future Reflections, I decided to offer her the opportunity to enter, not really believing she would agree to do so. She surprised me by being eager to try, and so I set about finding books for her to read.

When she began the contest she was able to read only a few pages at a time, and her rate was very slow. I am very pleased to tell you that by the end of the contest she was reading full length books, and her reading speed has increased dramatically. Since the end of the contest she has read two more books!

A note on the books I have listed: most are books which we obtained either through Seedlings Braille Books for Children or the National Library Service. However, because I have a Braille embosser I often transcribe books for her when she brings them home from the school library or orders them from a book club, so that she has a range of material from which to choose. I hope these books can be counted even though they are not commercially available. I have copies on disk of all the books I transcribed, and I would be happy to provide those to you if there are questions about the number of pages included in them.

Again, thank you for a wonderful idea, and I hope this contest will continue to expose blind children to the pleasures of reading.

Sincerely,
Mary Lou Mendez
Cathy's mom

Although Cathy was not among the category winners this year, she, and every child whose skill and enthusiasm for Braille has increased because of this contest, is the very heart and soul of what this contest is all about.  Every participant in the contest received a Braille certificate, a purple ribbon, and a note from the judges urging them to enter again next year. Winners received a special two-page Braille certificate, a ribbon, a print certificate, and a T-shirt. (If your student or child entered the contest, but did not receive these items, please let me know so the problem can be corrected. Although all items were mailed out last spring, we have discovered that some never arrived.) We have sometimes been asked why we would give out print certificates in a Braille contest. We feel certificates of accomplishment are meant to be shared with others, perhaps framed and hung in the home. Since most relatives and friends are sighted, it is appropriate that the student have a certificate that others can read and appreciate, too.

So who were the winners of the 1990-91 contest?

Our print-to-Braille category recognizes those contestants who are making the transition from print to Braille. Our first place winner in this category was Travis Roth from Dorchester, Nebraska, who was a first-time participant in the contest. He read 1,462 pages. Angella Tatum from Kansas City, Kansas, was the second-place winner with 771 pages; and Jennifer Echols from from Olathe, Kansas, placed third with 674 pages.

In the kindergarten and first-grade category, Arielle Silverman from Scottsdale, Arizona, placed first with 2,588 pages. Our second place winner was Ian Perrault from Shelbourne, Vermont. He read 1,377 pages. Jamie Weedman from Louisville, Kentucky, read 1,028 pages, achieving third place.

Blake Earl Roberts from Felton, Delaware, earned first place in the second- through fourth-grade category by reading 5,093 pages. Monique Melton from Portsmouth, Virginia, was awarded second-place honors by reading 3,951 pages. Our third place winner, Emily Schlenker from Wichita, Kansas, read 2,927 pages.

In the fifth- through eighth-grade category, our first place winner was Karla Gilbride from Syosset, New York. She read 8,104 pages. Zachary Battles from State College, Pennsylvania, earned second place by reading 8,050 pages. Our third place winner was Wes Derby from Scottsdale, Arizona, who read 6,890 pages.

April Swaim from Arlington, Texas, earned first place in grades nine through twelve by reading 8,709 pages. Chastity Morse from Coon Rapid, Minnesota, earned second place by reading 5,485 pages. Rebecca Ilniski from Cogan Station, Pennsylvania, was our third place winner with 4,251 pages.

Our Most Improved winners were Christy Durham from Platka, Florida; Joyce Chesser, Louisville, Kentucky; Andrew Parsons, Louisville, Kentucky; Christina Shorten from Gaithersburg, Maryland; and Ben Bloomgren from Scottsdale, Arizona.

Most Improved winners received $5 and a letter of commendation for making the most improvement from their performance in the previous year's contest. While category winners compete with others, Most Improved Winners compete against themselves. Any participant who has been in the contest more than once, and has not yet won in any category, is eligible to win in the Most Improved category.

Congratulations to all the category winners, and to all the kids who entered the contest!

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