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Bookshare and the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest

This post is contributed by Allison Hilliker, Bookshare Collection Development Associate. Thank you, Allison!

I love Braille!  I use Braille everyday for my Bookshare job and in many other areas of my life.  All of us at Bookshare think Braille is a terrific tool for many people, and we’re thrilled that we can help make such a wide variety of materials available to our members.

Most of you know that the Bookshare library has over 90,000 books available in BRF (Braille Ready Format and DAISY), but did you know that there’s another fun way to enjoy Braille?  There is.  It’s the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest.

The National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children are offering the 28th Annual Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest.  This contest encourages children in grades K-12 to be proud of their ability to read Braille and to continually work to improve their skills. In addition to the contest for students, there is also a contest for adult Braille readers. Children and teens compete against one another based on their grade level and adults are divided into categories based on their reading speed.  Both contests provide excellent opportunities to improve Braille skills while competing for great prizes. 

To register for the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest, as a K-12 student or adult participant, visit  Then read as much Braille as possible between now and Jan 4. Use the reading log available for download on the Braille Readers Are Leaders Web site to keep track of the number of pages you read from November 1, 2010 to January 4, 2011. Submit your reading log and final entry form to the NFB Jernigan Institute by January 8, 2011.  Visit for more information.

Bookshare has a very important role to play in the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest.  We offer unprecedented access to thousands of Braille books and dozens of Braille newspapers.  Our electronic Braille and DAISY formats enable members to read books on the go by downloading them into portable Braille-reading devices.  If you’re new to Braille, you can adjust your Bookshare site settings to download books in uncontracted Braille instead of our standard contracted format. 

Braille Readers Are Leaders is helping to get more people excited about Bookshare.  Kristen Johnson, a college student from Phoenix, Az, recently became a member.  She said, “I’ve always wanted to join Bookshare, but never took the time to sign up.  The Braille Readers Are Leaders contest gave me extra incentive to join.” 

Historically, Braille books have been hard for individuals to obtain because Braille libraries were scarce and books were bulky to transport.  Many people weren’t able to acquire Braille titles at all.  If you were lucky enough to find Braille books, your selection was limited.

Debbie Hartz, a high school English teacher at the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind in Tucson, Az, said, “I love the large variety of books that Bookshare has in its collection.  Back before Bookshare and electronic Braille, my students could only take home one or two books during weekends and other school breaks.  But some kids would finish their books before they even got off the bus!  Today, Bookshare has so much stuff that my students never run out of books to read.”

Bookshare currently has thousands of titles for all ages, from preschoolers to adults.  Our books cover many topics, from the New York Times bestsellers to Newbury award-winners; from detailed nonfiction tomes to light romances and mysteries.  We hope that there’s a book for everyone in our collection, and we’re glad that we can help enhance educational efforts like the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest.  Through our ever-growing library, Bookshare is proud to help support literacy in its many forms.

Note: If you have questions about the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest, please contact Natalie Shaheen at, or call 410-659-9314 extension 2293.

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