Future Reflections Fall 1988, Vol. 7 No. 3

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Report on the 1987-88"BRAILLE READERS ARE LEADERS" Contest

By Nadine Jacobson

One hundred and sixty-eight blind students entered the 1987-88 contest and proved - once again - that reading Braille is competitive, fun, and rewarding!

This was the fourth year for the contest and everyone who has been associated with it-judges, parents, teachers, and, of course, students-has learned so much. Perhaps the most important thing we have learned is how much we have sold blind kids short. Teachers have confessed that they often did not expect their students to do so well. I am ashamed to say it, but even I have been astonished at the number of pages some of our contestants have read. And I have been a Braille reader since I entered school some ..., well, a number of years ago.

Students such as Mike Riley of Indiana and Cora Mae Aase of New Jersey have set the standard. In the 1986-87 contest, Mike, a senior at the Indiana School For The Blind, read 17,169 Braille pages. That same year Cora Mae, a fifth grader, read 10,913 pages. (Mike Riley, by the way, was one of the National Federation of the Blind Scholarship winners this year, and his picture is in the September-October issue of the Braille Monitor.) What is really wonderful is how the children are responding to the challenge. One of the children in the 1987-88 contest (second- through fourth grade category) had read nearly 300 pages. She was happy with her certificate and ribbon, but was a little puzzled about why she hadn't won. Everyone around her thought she had done exceptionally well. But when she found out that the winners in her category had each read over 3,000 pages, she didn't cry or get upset or discouraged. She only thought a moment and then said, "Well, I guess I'll have to work harder next year." And I am sure she will.

When we started this contest we anticipated certain things. We were sure it would motivate blind children to read more Braille. We assumed that this in turn would improve Braille skills, and that improved skills would enhance the enjoyment of reading Braille. But I don't think we realized how much the contest would increase expectations. It only shows what is possible if we just give blind kids training, encouragement, and opportunity!

Before we get to the list of the 1987-88 winners, I want to say a word about the teachers, parents, and librarians who served as certifying authorities for these children.

Many of you teachers/librarians have had to cojole or push reluctant students into entering the contest. Once your student(s) was/were in the contest, you had to work hard to find Braille books. It wasn't unusual for you to transcribe books yourself because insatiable little fingers "ate up" the limited number of Braille books that were available.

And parents. You set aside time every day to listen to your Kindergartner or first-grader read to you from his/her Braille books. You sighed and turned away from the bedroom door when the whispery sounds of fingers brushing a page informed you that even though it was long past bedtime, someone was still very much awake. You hunted for Braille books, and then worried about what your son or daughter was going to read next year as he or she consumed every Braille book you could find.

Your reward is not a ribbon or a certificate, nor even the occasional hug or "Thank you" from son or daughter or student. Your reward is seeing indifferent or struggling Braille readers become eager readers and learners, or seeing good students achieve the recognition and status they deserve. In the process, you have developed more respect for Braille and greater expectations for your student or child. You have also learned - first hand - how true it is that the only disadvantage of Braille is that we can't get enough of it.

Teachers, parents, librarians - we thank you and we salute you for a job well done!

Finally, here is the list of the 1987-88 winners. You will notice that we have a special category of winner this year. A parent had suggested to us that we should find a way to recognize the students who improve the most from one contest year to the next. It seemed like a good idea to us, so we instituted the "Most Improved" award. For this award the student did not compete against others, but against his/her past year's performance. We selected the top five students out of all the contestants and presented them with a $5.00 certificate for the purchase of any game, aid, or appliance sold by the National Federation of the Blind.


First: Dean Maurer, Fairbanks, Iowa. Grade 8, age 15.840 pages.

Second: Sarah Schwalm, Indiana School for the Blind, Indianapolis, Indiana. Grade 5, age 10.531 pages.

Third: Kyla Machimity, Savant Lake, Ontario, Canada. Grade 5/6, age 11.522 pages.


First: James Konechne,Platte, South Dakota. Grade 1, age 6.1,850 pages.

Second: Andrew Parsons, Kentucky School for the Blind, Louisville, Kentucky. Grade 1, age 7. 747 pages.

Third: Bobby Miller, Newton Falls, Ohio. Grade 1, age 6. 615 pages.


First: Renee Fields, Kentucky School for the Blind, Louisville, Kentucky. Grade 4, age 10. 4,289 pages.

Second: Alicia Richards, Palo, Iowa. Grade 2, age 7.3,611 pages.

Third: Noel Romey, Phoenix, Arizona. Grade age 8.3,527 pages.


First: Anthony Murphy, Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Grade 7, age 12.7,451 pages.

Second: Brooke Householder, New Kensington, Pennsylvania. Grade 5, age 11.5,487 pages.

Third: Sara Rooz, Brooklyn, New York. Grade 5, age 11.5,348 pages.


First: Kelly Covert, Visalia, California. Grade 11, age 16.6,824 pages.

Second: Kimberly Verschaeve, Harper Woods, Michigan. Grade 11, age 17.4,543 pages.

Third: Grace Cabral, East Providence, Rhode Island. Grade 11.3,902 pages.


Here is a list of the five "Most Improved" winners from the 1987- 88 contest. It includes the number of pages read in the 1987-88 contest, the number of pages read in the previous year's contest, and the amount of increase between the two years.

1. Nick A. Guidice, Sinsbury, Connecticut. Grade 7, age 13.
1986- 87 Pages Read: 1,073. 1987-88 Pages Read: 2,964. INCREASE: 1,891.

2. Trad Smith, Kentucky School for the Blinds, Louisville, Kentucky. Grade 3, age 10.
1986-87 Pages Read: 241.1987-88 Pages Read: 1,732. INCREASE: 1,491.

3. Jeni Barr, Hubbard, Ohio. Grade 2, age 8.
Pages Read: 98.1987-88Pages Read: 1,303. INCREASE: 1,205.

4. Jenny Breen, Waterloo, New York. Grade 5, age 10.
1986-87 Pages Read: 1,491. 1987-88 Pages Read: 2,646. INCREASE: 1,155.

5. Harry Weber, Crokston, Minnesota. Grade 2, age 7.
1986-87 Pages Read: 99. 1987-88 Pages Read: 1,193. INCREASE: 1,094.

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