Letters to the Editor

Columbus Dispatch March 4, 2020

Four years ago, my family moved from Bexley to Upper Arlington so our then 11-year-old twin daughters could receive effective intervention services and, to be frank, so one of them could learn to read. The Bexley school district did not have the knowledge to educate students like ours and we were running out of time.

Our educational advocate guided our decision and recommended UA because of its proven ability to educate students who learn differently and its policy of providing certified remediation for children with dyslexia. Also, the district no longer utilizes Reading Recovery, a program in which our daughters had languished for years.

Leaving our community of 15 years was hard. Over the years we had spent thousands of dollars on private therapy, tutoring, educational advocates and private evaluations. Yet, we were lucky because we could afford to move.

The personal costs of advocating for and helping a child with dyslexia and learning differences can be staggering. In order to be identified with dyslexia to qualify for certified remediation, parents might have to foot the bill for a neuropsychology examination that can cost thousands of dollars.

Attorneys’ fees are $300-$400 an hour and appropriate intervention for children with dyslexia can be $100 an hour.

Learning to read is a social justice issue. We can no longer ignore the harmful, intergenerational relationship among socioeconomic status, early literacy and social mobility. We must work to effect change to help all students learn to read and access the education they deserve.

Kelli C. Trinoskey, Upper Arlington

Columbus Dispatch February 29, 2020

The ability to read is the linchpin of personal well-being and community vitality. It is the unlocking key that all too often is distributed unevenly and unequally.

The story of early literacy can be told through zip codes. In Upper Arlington, Bexley, and New Albany, for example, more than 88 percent of third graders scored proficient on the State of Ohio reading test.  Third graders in Columbus City Schools, however, fared less than half as well, with just 43 percent of them scoring proficient in reading.  The effects of this disparity are broad-reaching:  lost human potential and a polarized community. 

Ten years ago, my journey with early literacy started on behalf of one of my children.  The more I learned, the more determined I became to help change the trajectory of as many lives as possible. 

The work started when I was part of a grassroots parent organization in Upper Arlington that was forced to file a complaint against our school district because it failed to follow federal law and identify children with dyslexia and to provide appropriate instruction. After being found in violation of these allegations, the Upper Arlington school district changed its ways, embraced the science of reading, and has transformed itself into a nationally renowned district known for its early literacy instruction. 

Upper Arlington public schools now screen every single child entering kindergarten for dyslexia, provide phonics instruction 30 minutes a day to every single kindergarten through third grade student in the district, provide certified remediation for children with dyslexia, and no longer utilizes Reading Recovery.

Today, our parent group works collaboratively with district administration to ensure students with dyslexia thrive. I am proud to be a parent in this exceptional school district! Our shared success fuels my passion for ensuring that every single child in Ohio’s public schools has the same benefits.

The personal costs of advocating for and helping a child with dyslexia can be staggering. In order to be identified with dyslexia to access services, parents may have to take their children to a neuropsychiatrist where an evaluation may cost thousands of dollars. Attorneys’ fees are $300-400 an hour and appropriate intervention for children with dyslexia can be $100 an hour. If you have a child with dyslexia and you do not have resources, your child may never learn to read.

The cycle of poverty has many powerful forces. Not being able to read is surely one of the strongest. 

Having witnessed the transformational power of parents working together, we formed OH-KID to benefit children with dyslexia throughout the state. Our organization’s mission is simple: ‘A statewide coalition advocating for Ohio’s one in five students with dyslexia to receive proper screening and equitable access to intervention and remediation using structured literacy with fidelity.’ OH-KID (Twitter @OHKID_) currently has parent groups from more than 20 school districts representing over 180,000 students in the state. 

Parent advocacy is just part of the solution.  Another is bringing the current science of reading into teacher education in our colleges. Many universities are decades behind in their understanding of dyslexia as well as the science of how all children learn to read. The failure of universities has had a catastrophic impact all over the world. 

The research has been done, federal law exists requiring identification and remediation of children with dyslexia and yet decades and decades have passed, and our children have been sacrificed. 

Until parents demand that their children be taught to read, nothing will change. Until school districts fully comply with federal law, young children—particularly those from families with fewer resources—will be marginalized.  Until universities teach our future K-12 teachers the science of learning to read, we all will suffer. 

We, the parents, must stand up, stand together and make change happen. And so, it is my intention to rally those parents to affect change in each and every district in Ohio and every state in the country! As part of our outreach and education efforts, we have produced a documentary entitled ‘Our Dyslexic Children’ that will premiere at the Gateway Documentary Film Festival March 28. 

Learning to read is a social justice issue. It is a civil rights issue. We can no longer ignore the harmful, inter-generational relationship among socio-economic status, early literacy, and social mobility. 

 Every child deserves to learn to read. It’s time to act.

 Brett Tingley (@btingley7)