Future Reflections Winter 1994, Vol. 13 No. 1


by Sandy Halverson

Editor's Note: Sandy and John Halverson of Kansas City, Missouri, voluntarily serve as the judges for the annual Braille Readers are Leaders Contest co-sponsored by the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB) and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC). Sandy is a Braille teacher, and both she and John have been Braille readers since childhood.

Ten years ago, the boards of NAPUB and NOPBC established the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest for the purpose of promoting Braille reading among school-age children. The members of our organizations were appalled by, and deeply concerned about, the growing Braille illiteracy among our blind youth. Even bright children were in danger of remaining mediocre or poor Braille readers. For numerous reasons, blind children were not catching on to the excitement and thrill of reading via Braille.

We finally decided that if the kids were motivated to read, they could overcome other obstacles to reading Braille (such as less instruction time with teachers, fewer books, and so forth). And they have! Once motivated by the contest we have seen both good readers and lackadaisical readers catch fire with the excitement and pleasure of reading. Although originally motivated by the cash prizes and other awards, the students soon become self-motivated as reading becomes its own reward.

In the 1993 contest we had 226 contestants-our largest number ever-from 35 states plus Canada. We had a nice mixture of students who have been in the contest off and on for several years, and students who were entering the contest for the first time. We also had four deaf-blind contestants who were given special recognition and prizes in honor of Gus Gisser, a deaf-blind, long-time member of the National Federation of the Blind. A memorial donation from the National Federation of the Blind of New York made these special prizes possible.

Judging for the contest is based entirely upon the number of Braille pages read by the contestant. All students competed in one of five categories: grades kindergarten through first, second through fourth grades, fifth through eighth grades, ninth through twelfth, and Print to Braille. Those who had participated in previous contests were also eligible to compete in the Most Improved category. This category honors students who show the most improvement in number of Braille pages read from one year to the next. First-, second-, and third-place winners in each category receive cash prizesþ$75, $50, and $25 respectively-a contest t-shirt, and a certificate. Most Improved winners also receive a cash prize and a certificate. All contestants receive a Braille certificate and a ribbon of participation. Here is the list of winners by category:


Kindergarten-First Grade

First place: Krystle Zamudio-1,656 pages Salinas, California
Second place: Jessica Culley-1,329 pages Steubenville, Ohio
Third place: Amber Jo Kineard-1,268 pages Pineville, Louisiana

Second-Fourth Grade
First place: Blake Earl Roberts-8,366 pages Felton, Delaware
Second place: Gabriela Gonzalez-6,317pages Alexander, Alabama
Third place: Jessica Leigh McCracken-5,678 pages Dorchester, South Carolina

Fifth-Eighth Grade
First place: Stacy Kruger-13,694 pages Worthington, Minnesota
Second place: James Konechne-12,510 pages White Lake, South Dakota
Third place: Jennifer Espinoza-10,643 pages Albuquerque, New Mexico

Ninth-Twelfth Grade
First place: Chastity Morse-15,838 pages Anoka, Minnesota
Second place: April Swaim-12,649 pages Arlinton, Texas
Third place: Matthew E. Weaver-6,955 pages Berlin, New Jersey

Print to Braille
First place: Hillary Anne Bates-2,361 pages Ceville, Indiana
Second place: Joshua Jungwirth-2,044 pages Ishpeming, Michigan
Third place: Laura Ann LaDuke-1,802 pages Frankfort, Michigan

Most Improved
Jocelyn Dore, Ontario, Canada
J.T. Fetter, Sterling, Virginia
Katherine Gresh, Flourton, Pennsylvania
Melissa Saylor, Kentucky
Jennifer Warner, Green Springs, Ohio

Deaf-Blind Award Winners

Second-Fourth Grade
First place: Robert Riddle-3,498 pages Vancouver, Washington

Fifth-Eighth Grade
First place: Janna Nelson-2,699 pages Aliquippa, Pennsylvania

Ninth-Twelfth Grade
First place: Jennifer Baker-4,884 pages Rockville, Maryland

Print to Braille
First place: Hillary Anne Bates-2,361 pages Ceville, Indiana