Albany, NY On March 4th, Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon (D-Brooklyn) and Senator John Brooks (D-Long Island) hosted the 5th Annual Dyslexia Awareness Day in Albany. Over 100 students, parents, educators, and advocates from across the state brought attention to dyslexia, the most common learning disability in kids, and the need for schools to better serve kids with dyslexia. The event featured a keynote address from actor and producer Ameer Baraka, who was diagnosed while he was incarcerated. The event was also attended by two students recently featured in USA Today about how they navigated getting help from the NYC Department of Education. The event was cosponsored by Senators David Carlucci, Robert Jackson and Zellnor Myrie and Assemblymembers Robert Carroll and Harvey Epstein.
One in five children has dyslexia, which is not a visual problem, but rather a brain-based learning disability that makes word recognition, spelling and reading success a difficult task. Legislative solutions include a bill to provide early screening for dyslexia in schools at an age when children can make the most progress and before they fall behind their peers (Brooks/Simon S4341/A5259-A), a bill to require the incorporation of the structured multisensory approach into the literacy courses that are already required for prospective teachers (Brooks/Simon S4342/ A6450), screening for people who are incarcerated who do not have a GED or high school diploma (Myrie/Simon S6787/A7822), and requiring schools to provide interventions and special curricula for children with dyslexia (Jackson/Carroll S5608/A7210).
Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon said, Dyslexia is the most prevalent learning disability in children, and yet it is woefully misunderstood and unrecognized by most parents, teachers, and administrators. Dyslexia accounts for 85% of the kids identified as learning disabled, and is roughly 20% of the population. In each classroom of 30 first graders, 5 or 6 will be dyslexic. Learning to read is the most important academic experience students will have during their school years, but educators are missing the signs because we havent given them the tools. Scientific research shows that childrens brains are not naturally wired for reading. Because we are failing to screen kids, and failing to provide adequate services, too many are falling behind with depressing results that feed the school to prison pipeline. This comprehensive package of dyslexia bills will ensure our teachers are trained to teach students with common learning disabilities, screen kids for dyslexia so they can get appropriate supports, and screen people who are incarcerated for dyslexia.
Senator John Brooks said, "As someone who struggled throughout school due to undiagnosed dyslexia, I understand the challenges one faces when they have a learning disorder. Awareness is key to letting every boy and girl who has dyslexia know that they aren't less capable or less intelligent than their peers, and they should never be discouraged. There are countless individuals who have gone on to have great success in their careers -- governors, CEOs, artists, state senators, movie directors and more -- because dyslexia doesn't limit your potential or prevent you from changing the world."
Ameer Baraka, actor and producer, said, There is no prison reform without education reform. The bills before the New York State Legislature that Assemblymember Simon has authored with fellow legislators, Brooks and Myrie, respectively, mandate early dyslexia screening for children and screening for incarcerated persons like I once was. The ONLY reason that I made the missteps that imprisoned me, both literally and figuratively, was that my dyslexia went undiagnosed until I was 23 years old and behind bars because of my dyslexia. Legislators, pass these bills at once as a model for the rest of the country so that the genius within the legions of young people in New York State can be unlocked early, as it was unlocked for me far later in life than need have been.
"Every child deserves a chance to have a sound, basic, high-quality education. With that in mind, we have to create a culture of dyslexia awareness, where public school students with dyslexia and related language-based learning disabilities will be provided the opportunity to thrive and learn in their neighborhood schools," said Senator Robert Jackson. "Unfortunately, too often black and brown students are not referred to the correct support services and appropriate educational setting. This is another educational disparity we must and will address, and we are thankful for all our legislative and community friends and allies here today taking up this cause with us."
I want to thank my colleagues for their dedication to improving the lives of New York residents, schoolchildren, and incarcerated people, who have dyslexia. The science is clear that with the right pedagogical approach, early intervention, and ongoing support, the approximate 20 percent of the population with dyslexia can thrive. I look forward to passing this package of legislation and empowering New Yorkers with dyslexia to succeed in our schools and beyond, said Assembly Member Harvey Epstein.
As someone who struggled with dyslexia as a child, I know that proper diagnosis and early intervention are essential to a child becoming academically successful. 20% of students have dyslexia or another language based learning difference and currently so many of our kids go undiagnosed and never learn to read. It is time for New York State to screen every Kindergartener and First Grader for dyslexia and to employ evidence based multi-sensory sequential phonics-based approaches to teaching reading so that all of our children can learn to read and flourish academically. I commend Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon for her consistent leadership on this issue and am proud to join her for Dyslexia Awareness Day, said Assemblymember Robert Carroll.
Lavinia Mancuso, Executive Director of Everyone Reading said, What simple and powerful pieces of legislation! Training all teachers in basic reading methodology, teaching all K-2 students foundational reading skills explicitly and systematically, identifying students as soon as they begin to struggle; giving them timely and appropriate intervention. Teachers will love it; parents will love it, and, best of all, students will learn to read easily and well.