Amare Leggette, an energetic eight-year-old from Eastover Elementary School in Charlotte, North Carolina, will compete against nine students in the Apprentice age group at the 2016 National Braille Challenge.
“Amare is a fast reader and eager learner,” says Holly Jeffries, his teacher of the visually impaired. “He has a natural ability to skim, comprehend, make contractions, and knows when to reread text. He also loves new vocabulary words and enjoys putting them on our school braille word wall. I know he is prepared for the competition and is ready to take home the prize!”
Blind since birth, Amare has read since the age of two thanks to his mother, a teacher, who worked with him. His teacher says, “He has incredible recall and memorized his math tables at an early age.”
Now in second grade, Amare reads above grade level and is studying fifth grade math. In the national competition, he will perform a series of high-level skills in spelling, braille contractions, timed reading, comprehension, proofreading, and answering questions.
Ms. Jeffries, a seasoned educator who has taught children (K-5) who are visually-impaired and homebound, says, “Amare is wonderfully bright! In his first week of school, he read twelve braille books – that is one third of our entire school collection. He has already completed all of his third grade reading assignments. Bookshare supplies an excellent resource of knowledge. Using the online library, Amare gets the books he wants to read quickly, and I’ve timed him reading at over 150 words per minute!”
Bookshare, a Key Braille Resource
In Bookshare, English language books can be accessed in contracted or uncontracted braille, in either Unified English Braille (UEB) or English Braille, American Edition (EBAE). Jeffries says, “When you have a student like Amare, who can read a book in just one night, our job is to meet that demand. With Bookshare, we can readily download unlimited accessible books in braille, audio and large print formats.”
Amare is not the only one of Jeffries’ students who is a high performer. They all attend general education classes and are expected to be on par academically using similar curriculum materials. Jeffries says, “Students with disabilities possess such character, determination, and courage. We must set high expectations for them as early as possible so that they can master braille literacy for a strong foundation.”
A college professor encouraged Jeffries to explore Bookshare which is free for U.S. students with qualifying print disabilities. In 2008, she introduced the online accessible library to her district to find curriculum resources in braille, audio, and large print. Several teachers wanted to learn how to use the library at that time. “We signed our school up for an Organizational Membership and then signed students up for Individual Memberships,” says Jeffries. “Today, our school is not hindered by needing a book in braille and not finding it, or having to wait weeks for a copy. School braille books also get worn out, and pages aren’t fresh and crisp. Additionally, it’s not so easy to purchase them in local stores at $30 or $40 each. Students don’t want to carry heavy volumes around because it makes them stand out.”
When Amare isn’t reading or studying math, his teacher selects books and adds them to Amare’s Reading List so that he can relish in them over the summer. One of his favorite stories is Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate Dicamillo. He also enjoys books about space, weather, trains and holiday traditions.
Reading Braille at an Early Age
Amare’s parents read to him at an early age and believe in early intervention. They say their son knows his way around a braille book and can quickly scan the index, table of contents and bookmarked chapters. He also likes to present book reports on biographies and create posters. Mrs. Leggette says, “Bookshare has been a great learning tool for Amare to explore and excel.”
Amare’s parents, along with his grandparents and Ms. Jeffries, will attend the competition and are excited to watch him compete. Jeffries says, “The National Braille Challenge is always motivating! We know that Amare will do his very best. He has already made me, our school, our state, and his family so proud.”
The Bookshare team would also like to congratulate Amare Leggette for his accomplishments. We wish him and all the 2016 contestants much luck and success in the challenge and in all that they aspire to do. Read about the fifty finalists.
About the National Braille Challenge®
The Braille Challenge® is an academic competition designed to motivate blind students to emphasize their study of braille, while rewarding their success with fun-filled, but challenging, local and national events. Any visually-impaired student who reads braille is eligible to participate in the preliminary Challenge contest events, which are held from January through March throughout the U.S. and Canada.
This year, (2016) the preliminary Braille Challenge was held in forty-six sites and proctored by eighty individual teachers of visually-impaired students. Each contestant received a certificate of appreciation in braille and feedback on their performance. The top fifty contestants are then invited to Los Angeles for two days of competition, camaraderie, and fun. Braille Challenge categories include reading comprehension, braille speed and accuracy, proofreading, spelling, and reading tactile charts and graphs.
The 2016 National Braille Challenge is June 17-18th, 2016, at the Los Angeles Center, 741 North Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90029.