Future Reflections Winter 1994, Vol. 13 No. 1

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CHESNEE GIRL WINS BRAILLE AWARD

[PICTURE] Jessica beams as she poses beside the school sign congratulationg her for her success in the Braille contest.

Editor's Note: The following article by Steven Shultz appeared in a South Carolina paper, the  Spartanburg Herald-Journal. It was later reprinted in  The Palmetto Blind  , the newsletter of the NFB of South Carolina. Jessica is the daughter of Mrs. Sarah Jane McCracken, president of the Parents of Blind Children Division of the NFB of South Carolina. The contest is, of course, the National Federation of the Blind's Braille Readers are Leaders Contest. Jessica was one of the fifteen national winners in the 1992-1993 annual contest.

For third-grader Jessica McCracken, learning to read was more than just another accomplishment on the way through school. Blind since she was born, Jessica struggled with Braille reading for years. She and her teachers worked at it month after month with little success. Then Jessica suddenly had a breakthrough, and the meaningless mass of bumps that had been so frustrating opened up into a whole new world of meaning.

Now Jessica reads every spare moment she has. And last week, the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind where she studies honored her for having won third place in the National Braille Literacy Reading Contest.

Between November and February, Jessica read 5,678 pages of Braille. She reads stories, poems, children's books-everything she can put her fingertips to.

"She just zooms through everything," her teacher, Terrie Randolph, said, as Jessica sat nearby, her hand flying over a maze of raised dots on a white page. She's insatiable for a dot."

Jessica's parents, Joel and Sarah Jane McCracken of Chesnee, said learning to triumph had changed their daughter's life.

"We thought she'd never learn to read," she said. "Then one day, after three years, it was like a light came on. It's been so wonderful."

Both her parents teach in Spartanburg County public schools and knew the importance of not giving up on teaching Jessica to read. "She is such a good example," Mrs. McCracken said. "That's what I tell my students: Reading opens so many doors."

Like other children her age, Jessica reads Nancy Drew mysteries, the "Ramona" books by Beverly Cleary, and Judy Bloom.

Even though the McCrackens learned a little bit of Braille, Jessica's abilities are in a different league. Mrs. McCracken said, "People say, `How on earth is she reading?' And I say I have no idea. It's a miracle."

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