By Cheri Rae
How well would you do in the classroom—where reading is everything—if you couldn’t figure out the sounds that letters make?
“Just try harder.” “Just concentrate.” “Just care more.” That’s what struggling readers are told often told.
Or even better, “Just sound it out.” Right. In fact, sound out the word right, tight, might. If you can’t remember that gh is silent, it’s not much help.
Then if you do remember that gh is silent, it’s not much help when you encounter words like rough or tough or cough (oh, and by the way, rough and tough sound the same but cough doesn’t). Because in those words, the gh sounds like F.
Remember that, too.
‘F’ like in the Feeling of Failure that surrounds so many students in school today. ‘F’ as in the grade too many of them receive. Kids who are smart, motivated and curious. Kids who have a neurological difference in their brains that can make the typical classroom tasks, like remembering all the rules of spelling, silent letters, and sight words, reasons for no end of their misery.
Compounding their difficulty is that they may be able to tell you a richly detailed story, but writing it is problematic—so their assessments rarely reflect their knowledge or their intelligence.
That’s the dilemma faced by 1 in 5 students who must to be taught to read in a different way from the rest of the kids. The kids with dyslexia. And if they’re not taught with a multi-sensory, multi-modal, research-based reading program proven to work, their ability to read will plateau off at about a third-grade level and stay there.
Until some adult figures it out, and helps them get the specific help they need. But parents, teachers, administrators are often baffled by these kids who work hard and have the reputation as “slow readers” or kids who “don’t test well.”
Far too many of these kids manage to underachieve their way all the way through the school system, and show up at City College, where they finally get tested and learn the reason for their difficulties: an undiagnosed learning disability, with processing issues, often times dyslexia.
Too often, they don’t find out until they are adults working to help their own children who are struggling to read. Count the financial wizard Charles Schwab (and Santa Barbara High School graduate Class of 1955) and the brilliant director Steven Spielberg in that group.
October is National Dyslexia Awareness Month. Locally, it’s been so designated by our County Board of Supervisors and by our Mayor and City Council. Our Santa Barbara Unified School District is doing more to increase local awareness than ever before—including creating a display at La Cumbre Mall.
And this Thursday, at the Parent Resource Center at the school district office (720 Santa Barbara Street), I’ll be holding an Open House from 1p.m. to 5 p.m., and showing the acclaimed film, “The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia.” It’s the least we can do for our 1 in 5 kids who learn differently and depend on us to know how to teach them so they can learn to read, write, and do their best in school.
For more information, contact Cheri Rae at TheDyslexiaProject@gmail.com