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A Voice for Dyslexia

Date Posted:  Friday, April 4, 2014

Submitted by Deborah Lynam

One of the first things a parent discovers as we begin the journey to learn about dyslexia and to find resources for our children is that there are two distinct worlds. The first is that of the learning disability (LD) community — dyslexia conferences, LD workshops, webinars, and research-based discussions. We read the books, the research papers, and the educational reports. We begin to understand the brain-based science that shows proper intervention can re-wire a struggling reader's brain to more effectively activate its language centers. This is the world that brings us hope and offers our children solutions.

Unfortunately, often times our children are educated in a very different world, that of public schools. It is here where we encounter many roadblocks and have to maneuver around many obstacles. Often times we have to work with intervention teams that do not understand dyslexia and therefore leave our children to languish in inappropriate interventions for years before referrals to special education were made.

It is time for public schools in the US to catch up with the current research. Good things are happening across the country in private schools and intervention clinics focused on students with learning disabilities. Research based interventions are in use, and educators are knowledgeable about what strategies work and what techniques are effective. Yet it is so sad that in spite of this research, children have to spend six hours of each day in a classroom that is not in tune to their needs. This is wasted time. This is precious time lost.

In the state of NJ, like-minded parents connected to form Decoding Dyslexia - NJ (DDNJ), a grassroots movement driven by families of dyslexic children. The mission is to raise dyslexia awareness, empower families with information and resources to support their children, and inform policy-makers about dyslexia, and the need to identify, remediate, and support students with dyslexia in New Jersey’s public school system.

This mission is one that has clearly resonated with parents across the country… the movement is growing at an astounding pace. At the beginning of the new year just a few states had parent led DD Movements. However, things have expanded and now 20 states are active!

Decoding Dyslexia members are connecting and collaborating with professionals, therapists, teachers, and policy-makers in their states. We aim to change the way things are done in schools by encouraging families to share their stories. Individual stories, when shared in unison, have power and Decoding Dyslexia is encouraging families to find their voices.

The time is ripe for families across the country to speak up about dyslexia. There is currently a bi-partisan Congressional Dyslexia Caucus in place in Washington DC. Congress will be looking to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in the near future and states are adapting to the new Common Core Content Standards. We need to ensure that discussions on improving literacy programs for dyslexics are included on all fronts. As parents we need to insist that this gap between research and practice is addressed!

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Deborah Lynam is a parent and member of Decoding Dyslexia – NJ

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Tags:  brain-based science Common Core Content Standards Congressional Dyslexia Caucus Decoding Dyslexia dyslexia dyslexia awareness Elementary and Secondary Education Act empower families ESEA IDEA Individuals with Disabilities Education Act intervention language center literacy policy makers public education remediate

The Importance of Summer Reading

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Sunday, May 19, 2019

student reading a book outside

By Kristine Burgess

Over the school year students receive instruction that should focus on developing skills and making academic gains, but what happens when they leave school for the summer? In order to prevent regression of reading skills in the summer months, it is essential that students engage in summer reading. Oftentimes, school systems have a summer reading requirement, but summer reading should go beyond assigned reading. Students should also be encouraged to read materials of interest to increase their motivation toward reading.

The purpose of summer reading is not only to prevent regression of skills but also to reinforce retention and growth of reading skills. Research continues to support the fact that the best way to improve reading is to practice reading. Therefore, students should be encouraged to read both silently and orally over the summer months to continue developing their reading skills.

According to the Texas Literacy Initiative, a student who reads 21 minutes per day outside of school reads almost two million words per year. A student who reads less than a minute per day outside of school reads only 8,000-21,000 words a year (2002). In addition to basic word exposure, increased reading leads to the expansion of background knowledge and vocabulary. Generally, students with a language-based learning disability (LBLD) have less experience interacting with text, and, as a result, their vocabulary, word knowledge, and background information suffer compared to non-LD students. Therefore, students should be encouraged to take every opportunity to increase their exposure to and with vocabulary, a range of reading topics, and texts of varying difficulties to increase word exposure.

Interacting with Text Boosts Comprehension

Ideally, students should be asked to interact with their reading text in a way that provides for feedback and increased comprehension. In order to interact effectively with the text, a more successful reader could read with the student and provide feedback on decoding errors, overall fluency, and comprehension strategies. Additionally, students could be asked questions about events and characters from the text, which would showcase their level of understanding.

At the end of the day, parents should not have to engage in a large battle with students over summer reading. For the very reluctant reader, parents and school systems should encourage graphic novels, game directions, project manuals, and the like as potentially worthwhile summer reading in addition to assigned novels. While many students will be resistant, what they are reading is far less important than the fact that they are reading.


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About the Author

Kristine Burgess

Kristine Burgess is the head of the Reading Department and a teacher at Landmark School.


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Tags:  summer slide language-based learning disabilities literacy summer reading
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