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Editor's Note: James Konechne of Platte, South Dakota, was first-place winner in the Kindergarden/First Grade category of the 1987-88 NFB Braille Reading Contest For Blind Children. This article appeared in his hometown newspaper.
I am Jame Konechne. I'm six years old. I'm in first grade at Platte. My mom, dad, and two sisters, Wendy and Melissa-and I live on a farm. We have cows and pigs. I feed them corn out of a bucket each day when I get home from school.
We have seventeen kids in my class. We have two first grades. The other has seventeen kids, too! My teacher is Mrs. Johnson, and my Braille teacher is Mrs. Wasje. I like to play "Round the World in Math." Also spelling for Mrs. Wasje because she gives me gummi zoo animals.
I can't wait for swimming this summer. I love to ride in my dad's cab tractor when he bales. He lets me run the controls. I get to tie the bale with twine, cut the twine, and open the tailgate to dump the bale. That's just part of my life in Platte.
by Christine E. Hawkins.
Editor's Note: Christine is from Seymour, Indiana. Her essay was accompanied by this letter.
May 25,1988 Dear Sirs:
This essay was written by one of my low-vision students. The feelings conveyed I feel are worthwhile sharing with others. If you feel it should be published in Future Reflections, you have Christine's permission to do so.
Sincerely, Henrietta Snively Consultant for Low Vision Students
I wanted to write about cruelty of children. [It] is a subject I know first-hand. I started to wear my glasses when I was barely two years old and learned to live with them. But when I started school, children would often make fun of my thick glasses. I didn't understand why they would make fun of something that was so important to me.
My older brother was also made fun of. He had a colostomy and wore a plastic bag on his side that would catch his urine. It hurt me to see children make fun of him. Through the years I have come to learn that children are often cruel because of ignorance. They don't understand why someone must wear glasses to see or braces to walk or a colostomy bag because it is a necessity. Over the years people still make fun of me, but I learned to laugh with them or pretend I didn't even hear them. But there are those days where I can't do either, and I just go by myself and have a good cry.
I babysit for several children, and one day I may have my own. But I'd like to teach these children not to make fun of others who are different for whatever reason. The memories of being made fun of can last a lifetime, and one of my goals in life is to pass on to the children I see and talk to is to educate them not to be cruel and to understand the other child's problems or differences.
by Dottie Neely
Editor's Note: Dottie Neely wrote this for the Blind Missourian several years ago. I have held onto it thinking I would find an opportunity to publish it in Future Reflections. With the holiday season coming up, this seemed the right time.
Kids love to be creative, yet this creativity needs to be stimulated and cultivated by parents' making available different kinds of materials. Play dough can be used as a creative medium for a child's imagination.
One year when money was limited, play dough was used in a variety of ways to make Christmas presents for friends and relatives. These presents were useful and attractive. Gifts included the clay itself as well as a wide variety of ornaments and decorations.
With help from Mom, my children made the clay, worked it up themselves, rolled it out using small rolling pins obtained from small dollar stores, cut different holiday shapes (we collect these as we find them in stores year-round), helped put these on cookie sheets, press strings in the top, or punch holes in the top for strings. These shapes were then dried slowly in a low- heat oven, cooled, and painted with either water color or acrylic paints. These are nice finish items. If children cannot paint, glitter and glue can be used for decorations. Different colors may be mixed together to make a marbled effect, and painting is not necessary when these are marbled.
My children also loved to make clay for small friends to play with. This is a good Christmas present if a small rolling pin is included and a couple of small cookie cutters. My children have a supply of clay to play with all the time. It is stored in an airtight container in a kitchen cupboard next to a plastic box that contains plastic sheets for them to work with clay on, and a supply of cookie cutters for use with the clay. Mom helps from time to time, encouraging them to use different methods of working with clay to make baskets, dishes, buildings, and whatever else these two creative children may desire.
Happy creating with your children. We have spent many quiet hours together with this wonderful activity.
Mix in pan:
3 cups flour
1-1/2 cups salt
2 tsp. cream of tartar
Mix in bowl:
3 cups water
3 tsp. salad oil
10 drops food coloring
*A few drops of peppermint can be used to make the clay smell good.
Very slowly pour liquid mixture into the dry mixture. Stir well while pouring. After all has been well-mixed, cook over low heat stirring constantly until mixture forms a large ball. Knead immediately, set aside to cool, knead again when cool, store in a plastic bag or a tight, closed container.
VALLEY SECOND-GRADER PLACES THIRD IN NATIONAL BRAILLE READING CONTEST
Editor's Note: This article, written by Victoria M. Stevens, is reprinted from the June 15, 1988 newspaper, Arizona Republic.
Noel Romey brushed his fingers across the stiff, bumpy pages of the book, Little Wizard Stories of Oz, and read aloud like a sage storyteller.
"So he roared and raved and stomped around in his undersized palace in a way that rendered him very agreeable," Noel narrated as he looked straight ahead, raising an eyebrow for effect.
Then, the second-grader from Senita Elementary School, 10444 N. 39th Ave., closed the book and sighed.
"I'm tired of reading."
It is no wonder Noel, eight, is tired.
In three months, from Dec. 1 to March 1, he read 3,521 pages, for a total of 113 books in Braille, and captured third place in the 1987-88 National Federation of the Blind's national children's Braille reading contest in the second-to-fourth grade division.
Last year, Noel, who reads at a ninth-grade level, won second place in the nationwide contest kindergarten and first- grade division, reading 1,913 pages in Braille.
Braille is a system of writing and reading for the blind in which each character is formed by a pattern of raised dots on paper.
Noel, who was in traction after breaking both legs in a playground accident at school in April, said it becomes difficult to pick up a book after reading that much for three months straight. But being bedridden forces him to read every now and then.
"I don't read much now," he said. "I need a break, so I listen to tapes."
Noel said he became interested in the competition in 1987, when a teacher at his school asked him whether he wanted to enter. He said he didn't hesitate in getting started.
"I took a little bit every day," he said.
However, Noel said that this year, "I was racing pretty much at the beginning.
"I started out with 50 pages a day. And one day, I took practically all the books on my shelf and read all of them. I started at 5:00 a.m. and 1,900 pages I had already read, and I jumped up to 2,100 by 2:00 p.m."
Noel has been blind since birth because of osteopeteroosis, a rare disease that causes the bone to become too dense, to the point that it is highly susceptible to breaking, said his parents, Jackie and Larry Romey.
Dense bone that is "almost like petrified wood" formed around his optic nerve, impeding his sight from birth, Jackie Romey said.
The Romeys said that because little is known about the rare disease, doctors are not sure how it might affect his development later in life.
Being blind hasn't hindered Noel, who regards himself as "more normal" than other kids.
He can read and write in Braille; in fact, he and his sister, Kelsea, six, have co-written a seven page book about Sesame Street's "Big Bird." He has made a tape explaining his school's talking
Page 28 computer and Braille printer for the blind, and his favorite subject is math, where he is progressing at the third- grade level. Kelsea said her brother can even "see" colors when they draw together.
"I color over the bumps that he makes with his Braille writer," she said, "and then it makes a pretty picture. He feels things and can tell the color by the warmth and coldness." To Noel, black is "darkness," yellow is the sun," orange is a "pumpkin, cool and slimy," and turquoise is "like some jewels on a belt."
Noel is a good example of how blind children can excel with Braille, said Barbara Cheadle, coordinator of the Braille reading competition for the National Federation of the Blind. The nonprofit organization in Baltimore, Maryland, helps promote equality and opportunities for the blind to integrate them into society.
"Noel can read faster than he can talk," she said, adding that he was the only child from Arizona to win an award in this year's competition.
The competition, which is in its fourth year, is offered to chioldren from kindergarten to 12th grade. Cheadle said Noel was surpassed by Renee Fields, a fourth grader from Louisville, Kentucky, who read 4,289 pages to place first. Alicia Richards, a second grader from Palo, Iowa, read 3,611 pages to finish second.
Noel said he borrows many of his books from the Braille Institute in Los Angeles.
"Encyclopedia Brown and Tom Swift (fictional characters) are my favorites," Noel said.
Although he might be tired of reading right now, it must not bother him too much.
He plans to read more than 6,000 pages in next year's competition and to help his mother learn to read and write Braille this year.
"I'm going to check her work," he said. When he gets older, Noel wants to make a career of checking other people's work.
"I want to be a Braille proofreader," he said.
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