Future Reflections Fall 1990, Vol. 9 No. 3

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A Report on the 1989-1990 National Federation of the Blind Braille Reading Contest

by Nadine Jacobson

[PICTURE] After three years of volunteer service as judges for the Brailler Readers Are Leaders Contest, Nadine Jacobson (see portrait above) and husband, Steve, will be turning the task over to John and Sandy Halverson of Missouri. The National Association to Promote the Use of Braille and the Parents of Blind Children Division applaud Nadine and Steve for the hundreds of volunteer hours they gave to this important effort.

Bravo! Bravo! the 1989-1990 Braille Readers are Leaders contest was the most successful ever. The enthusiasm from students, parents, and teachers from throughout the country was overwhelming.

This year we had more students enter the contest than ever before. In total, two hundred and twenty-five students from kindergarten through twelfth grade read their hearts out. These students challenged themselves to read more than they ever thought they could; the students met that challenge, and the results were better than any prize they could have won. From all over the nation I heard about students who didn't much like reading when they began working on the contest, but as they read more and became faster readers, reading became a joy to them.

Another first this year is that we had eight students from Canada who entered the contest, and one of them placed first in the Second through Fourth Grade category. Keep up the good work, Canada!

I have had the pleasure and opportunity to judge this contest for several years. It has been rewarding to analyze the reading that individual contestants have done from year to year, and to observe their growth through the books they read. Much of the reading is recreational, but much of it is also of an educational nature. I have also had the opportunity to compare the number of pages read by individuals over the years. Those who win in the Most Improved category represent only a few of the contestants who read more and more each year, further enhancing and developing their reading skill and speed.

In addition to the intrinsic rewards of reading, students are also experiencing lively competition. I have heard of many situations in Minnesota and other states in which two or more students will compete with each other to see who can read the most pages.

Those are some of my observations. Now, let me share with you some portions of the many letters I receive from parents and teachers related to the contest. A mother from Maine writes: "I wanted to...say how enthusiastically my son participated in this wonderful contest. His reading abilitites have improved dramatically, and he didn't stop reading until the very end. My son is partially sighted, but Braille skills are what he uses. It's effective and allows him to excel in school."

A teacher writes of her student, "Her reading skills have improved greatly and we have noticed a marked improvement in all of her schoolwork that requires quick and accurate reading. Her mother also informs us that Jenny enjoys reading now and is rarely seen without a book at her fingertips."

Susan Wenstrom, a teacher at the Michigan School for the Blind writes: "My students were very excited about participating in the Braille reading contest."

Another teacher, Dorothy Destefano of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, sent us this note: "I personally would like to thank your organization for sponsoring this contest as a means of encouraging the reading of Braille at all levels. The wonders of the world await those people who can read. Once again, thanks to all of you."

One of the most touching letters came from Hera Goodrich, a teacher in Massachusetts. She related the story of Sok Chea, a seven-year-old boy from Cambodia she is teaching. He is the first one in his family to become literate. She says that "this contest has served to increase both his reading skill and his speed. He is very excited about it....Thank you for sponsoring this contest --it is most valuable."

Unfortunately, there isn't enough space to print all of the letters. We deeply appreciate those of you who have taken the time to write. Please continue to send us your thoughts and ideas about the contest. We are always trying to make it better.

I believe that all the contestants deserve recognition for the hard work they put into this contest. Also, recognition goes to the parents who stayed up late, or got up early, to listen to their children read; to the teachers, librarians, transcribers, and others who helped students get materials to read and kept encouraging the children to do their best. There are many people in this country who truly believe in the effectiveness of Braille and its important role in the lives of blind people. Keep up the good work!

Here is the list of contest winners. It is interesting to note that the fifteen contest winners read a total of 53,946 pages, or an average of 3,600 pages per winner. The average for all 225 contestants, who read a total of 217,429 pages, was 962 pages per student.

Winners of the contest won: $50 for first place; $25 for second place; and $10 for third place. Each winner also received a special Tshirt and certificate. The Most Improved winners received $5 each. All contestants received a ribbon and a certificate just for participating.


First Place: Erin Lauridsen; Clatskanie, Oregon; First Grade; 1,110 pages.
Second Place: Ashley Skellenger; Hobe Sound, Florida; First Grade; 1,073 pages.
Third Place: Lisa Kidder; Faribault, Minnesota; Kindergarten; 1,070 pages.


First Place: Robin Mandell; Brantford, Ontario, Canada; Third Grade; 4,894 pages.
Second Place: Noel Romey; Phoenix, Arizona; Fourth Grade; 4,144 pages.
Third Place: Karla Gilbride; Syosset, New York; Fourth Grade; 3,787 pages.


First Place: Casey Cannon; Ellington, New York; Sixth Grade; 6,744 pages.
Second Place: Bethany Weisend; North Canton, Ohio; Eighth Grade; 6,314 pages.
Third Place: Jennifer Baker; Rockville, Maryland; Sixth Grade; 5,809 pages.

Ninth through Twelfth Grade

First Place: April Swaim; Arlinginton, Texas; Ninth Grade; 7,068 pages.
Second Place: Nancy Williams; Fredonia, Kentucky; Twelfth Grade; 6,253 pages.
Third Place: Chastity Morse; Coon Rapids, Minnesota; Ninth Grade; 4,123 pages.


First Place: Harriet Go; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Second Grade; 670 pages.
Second Place: Elizabeth Frutchey; Providence, Rhode Island; Second Grade; 506 pages.
Third Place: Kamyar Habibelahian; Bellevue, Washington; Third Grade; 391 pages.


1. Sora Mindy Cook; Baltimore, Maryland; Second Grade. Pages this year: 2,170; last year: 74.
2. Tabatha Brown; Burlington, Vermont; Fourth Grade. Pages this year: 1,761; last year: 793.
3. Dionne Quan; Vallejo, California; Fourth Grade. Pages this year: 1,655; last year: 762.
4. Angela Dawn Fisher; Cheshirert, Ohio; Sixth Grade. Pages this year: 1,378; last year: 487.
5. Jenny Kasl; Phoenix, Arizonia; Second Grade. Pages this year: 890; last year: 265.

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