Photograph of a five or six-year-old boy seated on the floor, reading a book, and
Matthew Jin (WA)

Young Braille Readers and Their Friends Take Note

From the Editor: From November 1 to February 1 every year a growing number of elementary and secondary school students who read Braille take part in the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille. Flex your fingers, kids; the 1999 contest is about to begin.

Each spring, after the contest ends, the letters from grateful parents and teachers begin pouring in. Here is a small sample of notes Mrs. Cheadle received at the close of the 1998 contest:

Salinas, California
February 2, 1998
Dear Friends,

Thank you for having this contest yearly. It really accomplishes its purpose. One year my student, _______, won the contest (first place), and she felt really great about herself.

This year I have two students entering. One is so excited about the contest. He missed some school getting a kidney transplant. The other has been hard to motivate for home reading. This has been a tremendous influence on them.

Keep up all of your good work.

Yours truly,
Kathy Dempsey, VH Specialist
Columbus, Georgia

February 2, 1998

Dear Mrs. Barbara Cheadle,

My name is Marlene Culpepper, and as the school's Braille teacher I am the certifying authority for our contestants' participation in your contest. It is my first full year as a Braille teacher and our first year participating in your contest. It has been such a positive experience for all of our students.

One of our students laughed when I mentioned that we were entering this contest. She said that she didn't read at home for enjoyment and that reading was not really the activity of her choice. I am happy to report that with each passing month she read a greater number of pages and that she began to look forward to reading more. She enjoys reading now and hopefully has developed a habit of reading a little each night. . . .

Our school has four Braille readers, who have all participated in the contest. I am happy to report 100 percent participation for our first year.

Thanks again for the opportunity to participate in your terrific contest. We look forward to entering again next year.

Sincerely,

Marlene Culpepper

A picture of a nine or 10-year-old girl, Ellen Bartley, reading a book seated at a desk.
Ellen Bartley

February 15, 1998
Lincoln, Nebraska

Dear Barbara,

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and all of the others who make the contest, Braille Readers Are Leaders, possible. This is a wonderful service to Braille students. I would like to describe my experience with the contest.

I enrolled a third-grade student in the 1997 contest. It was the first time I had enrolled a student and the first time he had entered this contest. At the beginning of the contest he was still only so-so about reading Braille versus reading print. If I asked him, he probably would have asked for print just so he could look at the pictures.

At the beginning of the contest he was not reading Braille books at home at all. We started with a very small book that was only nine pages long. He reluctantly agreed. Gradually we added a book that he took home each day until he was taking about three books home each school day. Over the weekend he would take nine books home.

It took a little while, but the improvement began to show. During the three months that he read for this contest I feel that he advanced through a half to perhaps close to a full year of Braille instruction. By the end of the contest he requested to read books. He asks to have a reading day, where he will not be asked to write Braille, but just to read stories. He even sneaks ahead of my lesson and reads the next story in the Patterns book.

Please continue to offer this contest for other young Braille readers. It has made a world of difference for this young reader and his family.

Sincerely,

Susan Stokes

Do you know a Braille-reading student who would benefit from participating in this contest? The contest form appears at the center of the print edition of this issue. You can detach it and pass it along to someone who can make good use of it. If you need additional copies, you can get them from the Materials Center, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, or call (410) 659-9314.