One of the most sucessful projects of the NFB Parents of Blind Children and the National Association to Promote the Use Of Brail!p> is OUT National Braille* Reading Contest. The contest began in 1984 and has been growing in popularity ever since.
Why are we sponsoring this contest and what do we hope to accomplish by it? Frankly, if every legally blind child in this country were given the opportunity to learn Braille, if all teachers of blind children had a thorough knowledge of Braille, firmly believed it was an efficient and competitive method of reading and were enthusiastic about teaching it, there would be no need for this contest. Unfortunately, none of this is true.
This is not to say that all teachers of the blind and visually impaired are incompetent Braille instructors or that all of them believe p-miite is inferior. The good response we have had to this contest attests to the fact that there are many fine, competent, and dedicated teachers of Braille out there. But they are a minority. And it is the children who suffer when they must be evaluated and trained by people who are ill-prepared and who have been taught in our University training programs to believe that Braille is "slow and tedious."
With conditions being as they are in regard to Braille, it only made sense to find some way to get directly to the kids and encourage them to find out for themselves how rewarding and fun Braille could be. We thought there were enough parents and teachers out there who believed in Brailir to help make the contest work. We were right.
Then, we had to draw up the rules and determine what prizes to give. We decided since our purpose was simple, that is, get more blind children to read more Braille; that the contest could be judged simply on the number of Braille pages read. We reasoned that if children just read more, they would become faster and more proficient readers and enjoy it more.
To motivate the children to enter the contest, we decided to offer some great prizes--cash (up to $50.00) nifty Tshirts, and certificates for the winners. Also, every contestant gets a certificate and a ribbon, so no one really loses. Then there is the recognition.
We try our best to see that every winner and contestant gets some public recognition for what they have accomplished. We encourage schools to present awards and ribbons to the children during school awards cermonies. Whenever possible, local representatives of the NFB have made public presentations and arranged for media coverage.
This publicity, if well done, does many good things. It gives recognition to young blind people who have earned it; it promotes Braille and portrays the blind in a competent and positive manner; and it lets the public know how the National Federation of the Blind is improving the lives of blind people.
The 1986-87 contest will be over by the time this issue is in your hands. For those who want to get ready for the 1987-88 contest, we suggest you watch Future Reflections for announcements and the entry form, and/or contact Betty Nicely, President NAPUB, 3618 Dayton Ave, Louisville, Kentucky 40207; phone (502) 897-2632 or 897-6439.
Now, here are the winners of the 198586 contest. We are proud of them. We congratulate and salute them for their fine accomplishment. They are truly "winners" in every sense of the word.
WINNERS OF THE 1985-86 NFB NATIONAL BRAILLE READING CONTEST
Beginning Print to Braille Reader
* *Age 16... Elm wood Park, New Jersey
* * 3rd grade.. .Wakeeney, Kansas
**Age 13...Idaho Falls, Idaho
Kindergarten and First Grades
**Age 5....Keams, Utah
SECOND..Lisa M. Leonardi
**Age 5...Chicago, Illinois
THIRD.. Jason John Meddaugh
**Age 5...Saginaw, Michigan
Second through Fourth Grades
* * Grade 3... New Kensington, Pennsylvania
**Age 11...Amanda, Ohio
THIRD..Candice Rae Stepan
**Age 10...Dunwoody, Georgia
Fifth through Eighth Grades
FIRST.. Cheryl Fogle
* * Age 11.. .Tucson, Arizona
* * Age 12... Shreveport, Louisiana
**Age 13...Jackson, Michigan
Ninth through Twelfth Grades
**Age 17...Hillsdale, New Jersey
* * Age 17.. .Indiana School for the Blind
* * Age 16... Tomington, Wyoming
by Cheryl Jackson
(Editor's Note: We regret we cannot reprint all the fine newspaper articles which have been written about our NFB Braille Reading Contest winners. We simply do not have the space. The following article however, is typical of some of the good coverage our winners have received. The article appeared in the June 18, 1986 Bay City Times, Bay City, Michigan.
When Jason Meddaugh's parents go grocery shopping, they don't take a calculator--they take 6-year-old Jason.
Although he's a whiz at math, his favorite subject, it was for reading that the boy won third place in a national competition.
Jason, of 901 W. Freedland Road, Saginaw, is legally blind.
He won the contest, Braille Readers Are Leaders, despite beginning his efforts a month after it started.
His mother, Jeanne, said she received information about the National Braille Readers Are Leaders contest in early December, but did not pay much attention to it until about the end of December.
Contestants were judged by the number of pages read in Braille from Dec. 1 to Feb. 28. Jason read 1,206 pages for entrance in the kindergarten through first-grade division. For his efforts, he received a T-shirt and $5 gift certificate.
"I want to do it every year," said Jason, who attends Bangor West Elementary School.
"When he found out he got third place, he said " Oh, and what does second place get? So he's got his sights set higher for next year," said his 35-year-old mother.
Jason said he also participated in a similar contest for the March of Dimes in which he entered the same reading, including Dr. Seuss, Berenstain Bears and Sesame Street books. He gets most of the books he reads from school and the National Braille Eness Book of the Month Club.
"He can't go to the library and pick out four or five books like other kids," she said. "Thats probably one of the most frustrating things."
Because of the school library's limited selection of Braille books and the expense of buying new ones, Jeanne Meddaugh said whenever she finds some time, she transforms regular print books to Braille by typing a Braille version of each leaf and laying it over the pages.
"He loves a challenge. We started math with him when he was 3 years old with great tag flash cards," said Jason's father, Jim, adding Jason now does math on a fifth-grade level.
Doctors discovered Jason was legally blind when he was 6 months old after his parents noticed that although his eyes moved constantly, they never focused on anything.
Jason says he reads for both enjoyment and to stay ahead in school.
He has just completed kindergarten where he attended regular classes in the morning and the schools vision room in the afternoon.
When not in the classroom, he enjoys board games and swimming. He also keeps track of when he should tune in on the radio to his favorite baseball team with help of a Braille Detroit Tigers schedule.
"He's quite independent," Jason's father, 37, said. "We're used to his bumps from where he's run into something. Now when ever we hear them, we don't even think about them. We say "are you OK?" and he'll say "Yeah" and that's that"
Because he enjoys keeping busy, his mother said whenever she sees an activity which his handicap will allow Jason to take part in, she gets him involved.
"He always wants to be doing something, "she said.
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