by Deborah Kent Stein
From the Editor: Deborah Kent Stein is a writer of such renown that she hardly needs introduction here. She is the author of many children’s books, and she edits Future Reflections, a publication aimed at parents who want to get the most for their blind children so they will become adults living the lives they want.
In addition to her work nationally, Debbie Stein is active in her chapter and affiliate. In this article she writes as the coordinator of the Braille Readers Are Leaders Program. Here is what she says:
From December 1 until January 19, K-12 students across the country were busy reading and counting up their pages for the Nationwide Braille Readers Are Leaders contest (Nationwide BRAL), sponsored by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults and the NFB Jernigan Institute in partnership with the NFB of Illinois. Twenty-six states signed up to participate in this year's competition, and seventy-four students from seventeen states submitted reading logs. Students are awarded prizes based on the number of Braille pages they read during the reading period, certified by a parent/guardian or teacher.
This year Virginia led in participation, with twenty-six students taking part. The Virginia School for the Blind (VSB) took an active role in encouraging students to get involved.
The top reader in this year's competition is Holly Connor, an eighth grader from Clayton, Missouri. Holly read a whopping 4,001 Braille pages!
The first-place winners in each grade category will receive a check for $25. Second-place winners receive $15, and third-place winners and honorable mentions receive $10. Each participating student will receive a packet of Braille-related gifts.
Below is a list of the 2018-2019 nationwide BRAL winners:
First Place: Victor Turner, Romeoville, IL, 419 pages
Second place: Cole Fish, Vancouver, WA, 132 pages
Third Place: Rebecca Butler, Boaz, AL, 118 pages
Honorable Mention: Christian Lopez, Mesa, AZ, 114 pages
First Place: Aisha Safi, Chevy Chase, MD, 1,995 pages
Second Place: Preston Rose, Eagan, MN, 1,479 pages
Third Place: Zanyiah Bell, Bowie, MD, 1,099 pages
Honorable Mention: Clara Scelsi, Pell City, AL, 1,020 pages
First Place: Noa Hottin, Alexandria, VA, 2,503 pages
Second Place: Milo Sherman, Brooklyn, NY, 734 pages
Third Place: Jonah Rao, Columbia, MD, 721 pages
Honorable Mention: Isaiah Rao, Columbia, MD, 690 pages
First Place: Holly Connor, Clayton, MO, 4,001 pages
Second Place: Nicholas Tarver, Many, LA, 1,780 pages
Third place: Mercy Rao, Columbia, MD, 850 pages
Honorable Mention: Noah Kano, Pingree Grove, IL, 827 pages
First Place: Samuel Thurston, Chesapeake, VA, 1,657 pages
Second Place: Josh Greer, Medical Lake, WA, 949 pages
Third Place: Aaliyah McKethan, Galloway, NJ, 757 pages
This award is given to a student who has shown exceptional improvement in reading since the previous contest. This year's most improved reader is Mercy Rao, grade 6, Columbia, MD.
Kelly Doty Awards are presented in memory of Kelly Doty, a longtime member of the NFB of Illinois who was a dedicated promoter of Braille literacy. These awards are given to students who have coped with extra challenges in order to become proficient Braille readers. Such challenges include, but are not limited to, having disabilities in addition to blindness or being an English language learner. Here is the list of the students who received this year's Kelly Doty Awards:
Katra Abdi, grade 3, St. Cloud, MN
Sadie Ainsworth, grade 3, Parker, CO
Noa Hottin, grade 4, Alexandria, VA
Benjamin Shambarger, grade 9, Lisbon Falls, ME
Samuel Thurston, grade 9, Chesapeake, VA
Victor Turner, grade 1, Romeoville, IL
Kollin Uttech, grade 12, Watertown, WI
Congratulations to all of these winners, and to the families and teachers who encourage and support them in their reading. Braille readers are leaders!