Nancy Niebrugge, director of the Braille Challenge, said it’s not easy to make it to the national competition level. She said contestants have to qualify and win in regional contests before getting selected to go to the competition.
“They’re in the very top percentage of Braille readers for their age group to make the finals, especially for his age as a first-grader,” Niebrugge said. “It’s really an accomplishment for someone his age.”
She said children who can see have an easier time practicing their reading skills because words are everywhere, with things like cereal boxes, billboards and television. But blind children have to seek out the opportunity to learn better reading skills.
“Part of the idea of [the competition] was to give them extra incentive to learn,” Niebrugge said. “It’s critical for them to learn how to read and they don’t get as much opportunity to do that unless the opportunity is created for them.”
Marie said Ian had to learn more than words, letters and Braille’s unique contractions. She said he had to read tactile maps, which indicate land features such as rivers, like printed maps do.
After going to the competition and visiting LEGOLAND, Ian’s back home and ready to give it another go for next year.
“He’s just 7, but he said he’s ready to try harder next time,” Marie said. “It’s like every parent, you think your kid is smart and has learned a lot, but to see your child chosen out of 1,000 with 60 kids going, we think it’s pretty cool that they picked Ian.”