childrens education

Literacy and Dyslexia: The Problem and the Real Solution

What if I told you there are effective ways to minimize any potential pain, frustration, and difficulty with reading that your children might face when they enter school? Most parents would be very interested in learning how to do this.

Most of the literacy challenges faced by dyslexic children when they start school can be minimized or circumvented by establishing a solid multisensory pre-literacy foundation before school begins, beginning from birth.

Anticipating and mitigating problems or roadblocks isn’t a new strategy—businesses, scientists, engineers, and marketing companies routinely practice this model because they realize it’s always easier to address potential situations before they crop up, perhaps altering design or communication style to eliminate issues and optimize the success of a project. But for some reason, the task of helping a child become a reader doesn’t always seem to inspire this preventive strategy. What if that could change?

Mother Reading with Toddler Son small

I’ve written many articles and blogs over the years about dyslexia, most of which address issues that arise after a child starts school and is already suffering the social and emotional effects of an inadequate learning environment. But the real opportunity is that most of the literacy challenges faced by dyslexic children when they start school can be minimized or circumvented by establishing a solid multisensory pre-literacy foundation before school begins, beginning from birth. More on that in a moment, but first let’s clear up some misconceptions that have muddied the educational waters.

1) Not all dyslexics are alike; each has different strengths, weaknesses, types, aspects, and severities. Genetics plays a role as well.

2) Not all dyslexics will be a Richard Branson or a Mark Ruffalo, but ALL can become good readers. There’s a danger in overemphasizing all the successful dyslexics as though every dyslexic child has identical talents and potential. Each dyslexic child’s potential and opportunity is different depending on multiple factors, but the one realistic expectation which can be emphasized for every dyslexic child is that they can be a good reader and reach his or her own unique potential.

Although many successful dyslexics are raised up as examples (which is encouraging and good), the sad truth is that most dyslexics historically never come close to knowing or reaching their own personal potential. Because of reading challenges, hundreds of thousands can’t read well or read with meaningful comprehension. Tragically, a staggering 66% of students fail to reach grade proficiency in reading by the 4th grade. And without remediation, it gets worse: many adults now in prison fall within this group. A Study of the Texas Prison System revealed 80% of inmates are functionally illiterate, and 48% of those incarcerated are dyslexic, in contrast with 20% of the general population. This situation is not unique to just one state, but occurs with alarming frequency throughout the world.

As I’ve discussed before in this blog, our brains are hard-wired for speech, but not for literacy, so learning to read and write means cracking the code that links what at first looks like meaningless squiggles on a page to the familiar spoken word. The printed word proves to be quite a challenge for many children, especially those who have dyslexia or other reading difficulties.

In some instances, schools have discontinued using the very methods that do work.

The reality of the situation is that the methods used to teach reading in school haven’t kept pace with research addressing the diversity of learning differences and in some instances, schools have discontinued using the very methods that do work. See Faith Borkowsky’s interview, Reading Intervention Behind School Walls.

While many students can become adequate readers regardless of the method of instruction, over 50% of students require explicit, multisensory reading instruction, and this method works well for all readers.

Father Reading with Daughter small

But what is explicit, multisensory reading instruction and when is it optimal to begin?

Briefly, multisensory reading instruction uses visual, kinesthetic (movement), tactile (touch), and auditory pathways of instruction to encompass all learning styles. For more about explicit, multisensory reading instruction, see my interview with Peggy Price, Helping ALL Kids Learn to Read

How can parents help establish a good pre-literacy foundation in their child from birth that will also help discover and address their child’s own unique learning style?

In collaboration with literacy expert Faith Borkowsky, I am developing a new, unique, and powerful series of multisensory picture books called Reading with Reggie for parents to enjoy with their children from birth that will help establish a good pre-literacy foundation in all children, preparing them to be readers before they start school.

Reggie in library colored no bkg

What is Reading with Reggie?

Reading with Reggie is a targeted, research-based series of enjoyable multisensory picture books that are intended for shared reading. Reggie is a character in the Sir Kaye, the Boy Knight series who struggles with dyslexia. These new books will introduce him as a guide to the challenges of learning to read and write. These are not dry textbooks, but fun stories with activities that include proven pre-literacy concepts. As you share these stories over and over again with your child, the concepts on which reading is based become solidified. What concepts? Phonological awareness (connecting sounds to letters), vowels, consonants, letter combinations, the structure and workings of syllables, rhyme, and more. Understanding the foundational rules of language demystifies words and reading, and gives the child tools to learn new words, all in enjoyable, multisensory ways.

Each book will include supplementary information to help parents use the books at each stage of their child’s experience.

Reading with Reggie is a targeted, research-based series of enjoyable multisensory picture books that are intended for shared reading.

The goal of this fun, enjoyable series is to help adults build a foundation for literacy in their children and discover what forms of sensory engagement are the best fit for their child’s learning style. Each book will be an engaging story that will also feature a new literary concept.

Sign up for the Don Winn Author Newsletter to stay up-to-date on the Reading with Reggie project and other news.

If you’re looking for a series of exciting adventure books that help reluctant readers, take a peek at the award-winning Sir Kaye series published by Progressive Rising Phoenix Press.

Take advantage of other dyslexia resources I’ve shared on my blog.

About Faith Borkowsky:

Faith Borkowsky is the Founder and Lead Educational Consultant of High Five Literacy and Academic Coaching. With thirty years’ experience as a classroom teacher, reading and learning specialist, regional literacy coach, administrator, and private tutor, she has seen first-hand what truly works.

Ms. Borkowsky is a Certified Wilson and IDA Dyslexia Practitioner, is Orton-Gillingham trained, and has extensive training and experience in a number of other research-based, peer-reviewed programs that have produced positive gains for students with Dyslexia, Auditory Processing Disorder, ADD/ADHD, and a host of learning difficulties.

New York State-certified in Elementary Education, Special Education, and Reading, Ms. Borkowsky stays current, is always learning, and continually attends professional development in brain-based, holistic disciplines. Honing her skills over years and redefining strategies through trial and error, she has been a trainer in school districts across Long Island and has presented at literacy workshops and conferences for federal and state-funded initiatives. Her philosophy and practice include educating and empowering her students to be self-sufficient learners.

Ms. Borkowsky works with all ages, preschoolers through adulthood, utilizing meta-cognitive strategies and multisensory instruction in a collaborative, non-threatening style, where parents are welcomed and encouraged to participate in the learning process.

Additional Resources:

Dyslexiaville and the Super d! Show is a great web series that helps with the social and emotional needs of kids with dyslexia and attention issues.

Boon Philanthropy is committed to helping ALL kids learn to read adequately. Find out how you can help support teacher training in explicit, multisensory literacy instruction.

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