Future Reflections Convention Report 1997, Vol. 16 No. 3


What Contests Can Do: Report on the 1996-1997 Braille Readers are Leaders Contest

Each year the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB) conduct a reading contest for youngsters who read Braille. Schools and libraries across this nation sponsor such contests for print readers, but almost no one besides the National Federation of the Blind urges blind children to read as much and as widely as they can.

Do our efforts accomplish anything constructive? You bet they do! And not just for the winners. Here are some brief comments taken from letters sent to us by parents and teachers of contest participants:

Crystal McClain, Mother

Macy is in kindergarten, and this is the first time she has entered this contest. She just started reading in January. Now, since she is reading, she constantly requests Braille books. In the past I had both print-Braille books and print books, and I read both [to her]. Now, Macy only wants the print-Braille books so she can read, too. Thanks for making reading exciting. Next year I'm sure Macy will be an avid reader and a challenge to the other Braille Readers are Leaders contestants.

Edwin Zehner, Father

Thank you for conducting this contest each year. Mingkhwan [my daughter] has been in the United States just over a year, having arrived at the age of 8 in January, 1996. When she arrived she was just finishing the second year of kindergarten at the Bangkok School for the Blind. She knew very little English and only the 26 alphabet characters of the English code. Your contest has provided an extra motivation to help her read more. In the past week or two Mingkhwan has begun going beyond the assigned reading time just because the book was "fun." We look forward to next year's contest when perhaps we will be able to add to the list of winners!

Marion Young, Teacher

Thank you for allowing my student to enter this most exciting contest. The contest helped motivate my student to read more Braille pages.

Jo Lynn Chesser, Mother

I would like to thank you for the work you do with the NFB and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. I would also like to express my gratitude for the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest. I know a lot of work must go into this. Amber has placed three times and obviously loves to read. When she first started competing in this, those months were about the only time she read. Now it's year `round, and the books get better and better. In fact, she has recently expressed an interest in majoring in English and becoming a writer. Thanks for all you do.

Individual parents and teachers are not the only ones who find this contest a useful tool to encourage blind children to read. An increasing number of residential schools for the blind are actively promoting the contest among their students, making it a school-wide project. To reward and further encourage this kind of participation, the Braille Readers are Leaders Contest initiated an award two years ago for the residential school or schools which demonstrated outstanding participation in the contest.

No one criteria is used in determining the award winner. The judges consider numerous factors, such as the percentage of enrolled students who enter the contest; and, to be sure we are fair to schools with large non-reading multiply handicapped students, the percentage of students enrolled in academic programs who enter the contest. The judges also consider quality factors:

How many of the students improve their performance over the previous year? How many national winners do they have? What is the quality and quantity of the materials the students read?

This year's national School for the Blind Outstanding Participation Award winner is the Kentucky School for the Blind. Under the guidance of the new superintendent, Dr. Ralph Bartley, both quality and quantity of participation zoomed up over the previous contest years. With nineteen participants, four of whom were named national Most Improved winners, the school had a 29 percent participation rate out of sixty-five enrolled students. KSB also stood out among others in quality factors as well. The Kentucky School for the Blind truly deserved the honor and the $200 cash prize that came with this award.

The judges also believed that two other schools deserved Honorable Mentions for their support of the contest: Washington State School for the Blind, which had 18 percent participation and two national winners; and the Arizona State School for the Blind and Deaf, which boasted three national winners and a 17 percent participation rate.