Thank you for the recent editorial celebrating National Literacy month. As you pointed out, reading is a necessary key to success in society, yet according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, about 43 million adults and nearly two-thirds of fourth-graders in the United States do not read at a level considered proficient.

You shared tips from a parenting expert including rewarding children for reading, providing them with books that interest them, and setting a good example by modeling reading. These tips are helpful if the child can read! If a child doesn’t have the skills to read, no amount of motivation is going to help him sound out the words on the page.

A recent study from the University of Amsterdam showed that motivation to read doesn’t cause students to become better readers, but instead, strong reading skills motivate students to read, which in turn makes them better readers.

October is National Dyslexia Awareness Month, and it’s a great time to share some important information about reading. Unlike speaking, reading does not happen naturally, and for most students, learning to read is quite difficult.

For a time, many believed that immersing children in great literature would lead them to naturally become readers. Not true. Decades of research show that the process of learning to read is quite complicated, and must be taught in a certain way in order for all children to have the opportunity to learn. The National Reading Panel explains in its report the steps necessary to teach our students to read, and the five pillars (phonological awareness, systematic phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension) are referred to as the Science of Reading.

Even with evidence-based reading instruction, students with dyslexia will find reading challenging. Yale University states that dyslexia is the most common reading disability, affecting up to one out of every five students. That means there is at least one student with dyslexia in every classroom — probably more.

For people with dyslexia, the letters don’t talk to them. It is difficult to sound words out, and it is difficult to spell. (Reading things backward is a dyslexia myth).

Dyslexia occurs at all levels of intelligence, and there are many gifted, highly successful people with dyslexia. We shouldn’t wait until a child has repeatedly failed at reading to intervene. Nadine Gaab from Harvard University says that we can identify children who are at risk for having dyslexia as early as kindergarten, and we can begin interventions early to prevent them from falling behind.

No matter the age, however, people with dyslexia can learn to read with the proper intervention.

Signs of dyslexia can include: family history of reading/spelling problems, delayed speech as a child, trouble learning letters/sounds, trouble rhyming, trouble clapping syllables, trouble identifying the first sound in a word, trouble spelling, better listening comprehension than reading comprehension.

If you or someone you know struggles to read or spell, you can find resources from Decoding Dyslexia MD on Facebook, or from the International Dyslexia Association at www.dyslexiaida.org.

It’s never too late to learn to read!

Stephanie Pratt,

dyslexia specialist, Center for Effective Reading Instruction

director, Pratt Program for Students with Dyslexia, Bishop Walsh School

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