Success in Reading Isn’t Created Equally for All Students

victoria_pic_1Let me tell you about myself. From a young age, I walked around with my nose in a book, and I appeared in the campus bookworm section of my yearbook. Working at Learning Ally [a national non-profit dedicated to helping blind, visually impaired, and dyslexic students succeed in education] was a perfect fit for me. When I began to meet and hear the stories of those we help, it was heartbreaking but encouraging at the same time. It broke my heart to listen to students tell me their experience with reading was “different.” It’s different not because they lack intelligence, they simply learn differently.

I encourage you to read the blog “A Normal Dyslexic Day” on our website. It’s a wonderful peek into the life of a dyslexic child. To the left is a photo of the author, Victoria, as a little girl. Throughout her education, she has had to rely on a surplus of strength of character most of us can’t imagine. She’s now a high school junior. Pictured above, you can see what a confident student she’s grown into.

I was surprised when a Georgia teacher I know told me that the word “dyslexia” is not used in his school system. He said he’d never heard the word come out of the mouths of teachers, administrators, school psychologists, public education leaders, or parents. He also shared that the administration did not sanction the use of the Wilson Reading program [a program for students in grades 2-12 and adults with word-level deficits who are not making sufficient progress through their current intervention]. He said he continued using his Wilson training to teach because it was producing great results and that it was the most appropriate intervention tool he had.

He said: “This is a serious issue in Georgia. I hope that Learning Ally plays a part in turning this situation around for our bright Georgia kids who sometimes feel ‘stupid.'”

Imagine thinking this way about yourself.

I’m encouraged by the work that Learning Ally and others are doing to help. Along with Decoding Dyslexia, The International Dyslexia Association, and others, our organization is working to build awareness of dyslexia and get students reading. Not only does Learning Ally offer more than 80,000 audiobooks (because “ear-reading” helps those with a learning difference comprehend grade-level materials), we also offer teacher training, teacher apps to track reading progress, parent support, and youth services that help students advocate for what they need. Please take a moment to view this great video showing teachers using Learning Ally in the classroom.

Many don’t realize that learning differences like dyslexia affect up to one in five of our population, and children in poverty are more likely to “slip through the cracks” and think they are “dumb.” Studies estimate that learning differences occur at rates up to 75 percent in the prison population as well.

Just think what we could accomplish if we could “unlock” the world of books and learning for all.

Eleanor Patat Cotton, director of Learning Ally’s Geo Hub East in Athens.