by Barbara Cheadle, President National Organization of Parents of Blind Children
[PICTURE] Elizabeth Causey
Every year for twelve years I try to think of a new and fresh introduction to the annual report on the Braille Readers are Leaders contest co-sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille. But no matter how creative my approach, it can never touch the simple eloquence of the occasional note or letter I receive from teachers and parents who write to tell us how much their child or student has gained from the contest.
This year I hit the jackpot. Mrs. Miki Causey, mother of Elizabeth Causey, a first place winner in the previous year's contest (1994-1995), wrote a delightful letter about what the contest did for Elizabeth. She also enclosed a beautiful photograph of her daughter. Here is Mrs. Causey's letter followed by the list of winners from the 1995-1996 Braille Readers are Leaders contest:
February 7, 1996
Dear Mrs. Cheadle,
I enjoyed talking with you this morning about my daughter, Elizabeth. I hope a further liaison with people like you can help me guide her further as we continue this "journey."
Last spring we were absolutely thrilled and so very proud when Elizabeth won first place in the Braille Readers are Leaders contest! She had begun preschool in 1990 at the Georgia Academy for the Blind (GAB) as a retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) child in diapers, severe eating problems, and an uncertain academic future at best. Through much determination and perseverance on the part of the teachers and staff at GAB and on the homefront, four years later Elizabeth won a reading contest!!
As a result of this contest, Elizabeth was interviewed on closed circuit television at the Georgia Academy for the Blind, her picture was in the local paper along with her teacher, and she was on the local television news! In addition, winning this national contest boosted Elizabeth's reputation at school.
All this recognition, plus just winning the contest, has increased Elizabeth's confidence. Prior to the fall of 1994 Elizabeth had not read anything outside of her classroom. She was frustrated, uninspired, and quite frankly, did not like reading at all. Two things changed in her life to make a difference. First, Elizabeth met a sighted friend a few years older than her. Nikki read stories to Elizabeth. Before this encounter she apparently did not realize that children could read, too. The revelation made her want to "be like Nikki!" Second, the Braille Readers are Leaders contest put a competitive spark in Elizabeth that no one had previously seen. She constantly told us, "I want to win the contest." And she did!
As a direct result of Elizabeth's endeavor, six children at her school participated in the Braille Readers are Leaders contest this year. We hope that next year will be even better. What a wonderful way to encourage blind school children to read more Braille! Elizabeth is now looking forward each year to entering this reading contest. With the contest as her motivation, I hope she will continue to increase her reading skills. I believe it is a wonderful goal for her to strive towards.
Thank you again for having this contest. I truly believe Elizabeth Causey is a winner!!
Mrs. Miki Causey