Braille Monitor                                                         July 2007

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Report on the 2006-2007 Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest

by Seth Lamkin

What’s the best way to beat the summer heat? With a good book of course! Whether it’s enjoying the wonders of air conditioning or lounging at the beach or pool, sometimes the best way to spend an afternoon is reading. But while having the ability to read is great for leisure, it’s fundamentally necessary for participation in our global society. The ticket is literacy, and this year 334 blind young people across the continent booked their flights for success. These students, from forty states and Canada, read over 440,000 Braille pages in the National Federation of the Blind’s contest to promote Braille literacy. The twenty-fourth annual Braille Readers Are Leaders contest was as competitive as they come, and in the end the top ten winners were announced in seven categories.

Each winner received a Braille Readers Are Leaders T-shirt--complete with raised Braille text--a special top-ten winners certificate for his or her category, and a cash prize. In addition, many NFB state affiliates chose to recognize their contestants and winners in their own way, several including additional prizes as well.

This year saw our greatest turnout for the prestigious Community Service Award competition--an award recognizing individuals who worked to better their communities by using their Braille skills. Congratulations to winners Jack Desmond (OH), Daniel Dintzner (MA), Stephanie Dyke (AZ), Trey Lewis (OK), and Andrew Nantz (OR). Cooper Alexander (TX), Tiana Knight (AB, Canada), and Kristen McCoy (MO) received honorable mention. All of our Community Service Award winners and honorable mentions received T-shirts, special certificates, and cash prizes.

The Braille Readers Are Leaders contest is made possible by a partnership between NFB divisions NOPBC (the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children) and NAPUB (the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille) with help from friends at Braille International, Inc., Braille Enterprises, and Printed Apparel of Catonsville, Maryland. The contest is also possible only through the dedication of countless parents, teachers, librarians, and school administrators across the country, as well as the invaluable support of volunteers at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore.

“As blind people we know from personal and empirical evidence that Braille literacy is a key component of success for the blind,” said Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind and a lifelong Braille reader. “Studies have shown that among employed blind people approximately 85 percent read Braille. Encouraging blind children to begin learning and reading Braille as early as possible is one of the best things parents and teachers can do to insure blind children’s future success. That is why the National Federation of the Blind has created and continues to sponsor these important Braille literacy programs.”

Each contestant received a personalized print-Braille certificate of congratulations from the NOPBC and NAPUB as well as a white 2006-2007 Braille Readers Are Leaders contestant ribbon. Contestants received an additional ribbon for reading at least 500 Braille pages. Not only were these club ribbons awarded for reading 500 pages, but special ribbons were presented to those who read 1,000; 2,000; 4,000; 8,000; and 12,000 Braille pages. Our top reader this year was Daniel Dintzner, an 8th grader at the Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts. Over the three-month span of the contest, Daniel read an astonishing 22,549 pages.

Daniel is also one of our Community Service Award winners. To fulfill the requirements for this category, Daniel had to read at least 500 pages (he obviously had no problem meeting that requirement) and complete a service project that used his Braille skills to better his community. He convinced local business owners that having Braille menus available would not only make their businesses more accessible to the blind, but increase their profits as well. One of the menus turned out to be twenty Braille pages. Daniel completed menus for two restaurants in the area and plans on doing more in the future.

“Many parents and children do not know that Braille is a viable alternative to print or that Braille readers can be competitive with print readers,” said Barbara Cheadle, president of the NOPBC. “Too many blind children graduate from school with low expectations for themselves as readers. The Braille Readers Are Leaders program generates enthusiasm, raises expectations, and instills pride as children come to realize that reading Braille is fun and rewarding.”

We’d like to thank all of the parents and teachers who took the time to fill out the comments section on the contest entry forms. The information provided has proven invaluable in our efforts to analyze and improve the program. One recurring theme we found in many of the comments was the difficulty in acquiring Braille books. While the availability of accessible products has been a major hurdle, the National Federation of the Blind is working to ensure that all blind children have the ability and opportunity to read. To this end the NOPBC has compiled a list of resources where individuals, teachers, and libraries can acquire Braille books. Simply visit <> and browse through organizations offering Braille books at cost, on temporary loan, or for free.

Be sure to stay up to date with information about next year’s Braille Readers Are Leaders contest and look for some new and exciting changes in the contest in 2007-2008. For information about this year’s contest, visit <> and look for updates later this summer.

Following are several representative messages taken from the comment section of the 2006-2007 contest forms:

Thank you so much for your program. After Ivana had her cancer treatments, the doctors did not give us much hope with Ivana’s academics. They said she would definitely not learn Braille. We spoke with a special needs teacher we learned of, and he said we should at least try. We did, and Ivana loves to read now!

This contest really added to our Braille program. Tanya is tracking better and is able to read more fluently. … thank you for acknowledging these students.

I would like to say thank you for the encouragement of reading. My student has really increased her reading fluency as well as becoming more familiar with Braille books. This contest has really encouraged her to read more. Thank you again.

2006-2007 Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest Winners

Most Improved Braille Readers            Grade
Ashley Stewart, MD                               9
Austin Ingle, SC                                     5
Jenna Willis-Johnson, MD                      8
Aaron Lynch, OH                                 6
Michael Coughlin, PA                            7
Chris Givens, SC                                  5
Jessica Thompson, SC                          6
Meztli Fierros, AZ                                 5
Jacob Brooks, IN                                  8
Jodi Jones, IN                                       4

Print-to-Braille Readers            Pages
Chandler Williams, OK             1,192
A.J. Hovet, AZ                         1,039
Hannah Siemer, OH                  1,031
Katie Robinson, OH                    951
Dalilah Eldomialti, MN               900
Daniel Kane, PA                       547
Ashley Sorrels, CA                    506
Jessica Dail, MI                       474
Eric Robertson, CA                  456
Kelsi Hansen, AZ                     415

Kindergarten - First Grade            Pages
Ahbee Orton, TX                         2,609
Nathan Clark, CA                        1,789
Gabrielle Nicholas, MO                1,224
Alexander Grigalus-Kern, MD      1,136
Brittany Breen, TX                      1,059
Liam White, AL                             999
Jaecob Mullett, KS                         966
Leeann Nichols, OH                      865
Faith Kauffman, PA                     801
Autum Radcliff, OH                      588

Second - Third Grade            Pages
Merlyn Hileman, CA           13,753
Eleanor Hardwick, VA          7,575
Gabriella Welsh, WI            4,937
Nathan Stocking, MN           3,999
Alyssa Townsend, IL           3,486
Andrew Zeman, WI            3,155
Mia Correia, MA                2,741
John Frampton, RI              2,687
Claudia Sucre, FL               2,033
Kathleen Budd, MI             1,568

Fourth - Fifth Grade               Pages
MarChe Daughtry, VA            9,354
Lydia Elizabeth Evans, AL      7,509
Larry Byler, DE                      7,263
Christopher Palmieri, CT         6,462
Annabelle Costanzo, IA           6,450
Austyn St. Vincent, MN          5,943
Lucas Leiby, PA                     5,177
Amal Momani, SC                   5,057
Dasha Radford, NC                 4,866
Kelcey Schlichting, MO           4,533

Sixth - Eighth Grade                Pages
Daniel Dintzner, MA                22,549
Marisa Parker, MA                 11,623
Paige Tuttle, KS                      9,728
Lauren Beyer, MT                   7,931
Angel Singh, CA                      6,346
Riki Danielle Burton, KY          6,103
Holly Carneal, MO                   4,600
Alana Gude, GA                       3,656
Ka Yat Li, ON, Canada            3,365
Zulay Valencia, NY                 3,029

Nineth - Twelfth Grade                 Pages
Tiana Knight, AB, Canada            11,691
Dionne Dyer, FL                          9,565
Macy McClain, OH                      6,404
Kurt Elliott, MO                           5,349
Jonathan Wong, CA                      4,968
Mark Puzon, OH                          3,980
Alyssa Perez, AZ                          3,929
Amanda Estes, AZ                        3,326
Jennifer Wing-Proctor, MI            3,134
Chris Muñoz, AZ                        3,133


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