74% of US 4th graders read below proficent. Early reading levels are directly linked to lifelong success. This touches all of us. Here is my story...
Breaking the Cycle of Shame and Struggling in Learning to Read and Write
I share my personal story of shame and struggle with literacy in an effort to write a new ending for all those who are struggling. To bring literacy and empowerment to all children. To write a new ending to a very long cycle of struggle.
A few years ago when my grandfather died I lost a person who loved and supported me unconditionally. I now realize how his life is so deeply linked to my own. Born in 1921 in rural Indiana, he was the fourth of seven children hard hit by the depression. At the age of 10, he dropped out of school after his teacher told him he was stupid, lazy and would just have to accept it. To his great shame he remained nearly illiterate his entire life. His life should be a lesson in strength and determination because despite being nearly illiterate he and my grandmother started and grew a business. They did this on the shoulders of his hard work and great intelligence.
He worked hard to ensure his children got an education. His daughter, my mother, became the first person in her family to graduate from college. That may sound like a triumphant end to the story, but 50 years later my fourth grade teacher pulled me from my class and told me I was stupid and I would just have to get used to it.
My story took a different turn than from my grandfather's. My mother, my great advocate, had recognized a few years before that I was dyslexic as was my grandfather. She believed that with the right intervention and instruction, dyslexia would be just a bump in the road. Over the next four years, she fought for me and with the right interventions, by high school, the dyslexia played little role in my life. Another triumphant end to the story or so we all hoped.
When my daughter entered school, we were armed with the knowledge of the genetic predisposition for dyslexia and discussed it with all her teachers. Despite our knowledge and commitment to early intervention, it has been a constant struggle for her to receive the proper instruction she needs and deserves. I have been told by many that some children aren't as smart as others and that I need to celebrate her strengths. But I refuse to compromise her dreams and saddle her with the weight of low expectations and the label of “not as good."
How can we be lowering expectations for children instead of rising to the challenge of holding them to high standards and teaching them so they can reach those standards?
We are blessed to have found a person who not only gave my daughter the instruction she needed. Her struggle empowered me to find my voice and educate myself. I have learned how to challenge and support our daughter at the same time. How to push her forward while meeting her where she is.
Out of struggle, strength and the belief that all children deserve high quality instruction, The Indy Learning Team. I stand here today to share my story in honor of my grandfather and all those who don't have an advocate to fight for them.