DyslexiaLand Book Review

A few months ago I saw a book on Facebook that I knew I had to read. I bought it and added it to the TBR pile, where it sat for a few months. I wanted to make sure I dedicated a solid chunk of time to reading it since it’s not the usual YA novel that tends to call my name.

DyslexiaLand: A Field Guide for Parents of Children with Dyslexia, by Cheri Rae, is a must have book for parents and educators about the realities of dyslexia.

First and foremost, this guide is written by a mom with a dyslexic son AND a dyslexia advocate. I love this on so many levels. Rae gives us the mom-to-mom heart to heart in a way that is supportive and engaging. There is no pity party, but rather advice to provide families with comfort and guidance.

The guide does not read like a textbook, and the organization and structure are insanely user-friendly. I love how I can easily flip to exactly what I’m looking for and not feel overwhelmed with text on a page. One of my favorite aspects is the acronyms list of educational terminology. Even as a seasoned English teacher and Reading Specialist, this is an extremely handy list that I have book marked for future IEP meetings.

I was definitely interacting with this text while I was reading. I have underlines, hearts, stars and exclamation points all over the place. Rae totally hit a HUGE nail on the head when she discussed that teachers do not have the proper training or professional development for supporting students with dyslexia. As I’ve mentioned in We Need to Talk…About Dyslexia, I was one of those teachers who lacked training. My knowledge of dyslexia and appropriate teaching strategies were pretty much non-existent until I started my Orton-Gillingham journey. In the public and charter schools I’ve worked in over the years,  I have never had any training for dyslexia, which supports the point Rae brings up.

I have also been in about 25 IEP meetings since August, and have seen the term “specific learning disability” and ideas like reading comprehension and fluency associated with it. Yet, the “d” word has never been uttered in any of these meetings. I’ve been very intrigued with IEPs recently (probably from being part of so many), and I find it fascinating that I have not seen dyslexia ever mentioned in one. So needless to say, I was all over the section on IEPs. For the first time ever I completely understood what was being discussed about these legal documents. Rae’s explanations are crystal clear and makes IEPs less confusing (which is not an easy feat).

Middle school is my jam. Always has been and always will be. However, one of the biggest obstacles I’ve faced is the belief that learning to read only happens in elementary school. This is not the case for all students. Rae makes it a point to discuss dyslexia from elementary school through high school (woot woot!). The transition to-do lists are super awesome and spot on.

I also appreciated how Rae discussed that Orton-Gillingham tutoring can be done online. As a virtual teacher and tutor, it’s often difficult for people to wrap their heads around online education, let alone embrace it. As research has proven, OG is a successful approach when working with dyslexia. Whether the instruction is given in a school environment, at a center, or one-on-one with a tutor in person or online, the goal is to help students with reading.

Overall, I am absolutely over the moon about this guide. I believe it should be in the hands of every educator. Yes, every math, science, consumer arts, woodworking teacher, etc. should read this book. Literacy and reading impacts all areas of life. It provides parents with a sense of direction in tackling DyslexiaLand. It equips parents for the meetings, discussions, and realities of navigating the educational system.

To purchase this amazing guide click here.

Dyslexia Awareness Video

It’s hard to believe that October is almost over. It’s been absolutely incredible to see teachers, parents and special education advocates bring awareness to dyslexia this month with social media posts, promotions on Orton-Gillingham courses and products, and sharing articles and resources.

I had the pleasure of collaborating with Christopher Gordon, author of Timothy’s Lesson in Good Values, and EvenTech Corp, to create a Dyslexia Awareness video. It was super exciting to be part of this project with amazing people.

 

This video is also perfect to use for an anti-bullying lesson or activity. It can be used in character education lessons for students in grades K-6.

 

Top 3 Resources for Dyslexia

The internet is an amazing place. We can instantly find information with just a few taps on a keyboard. However, with this simplicity comes an overwhelming amount of information, which can be hard to sift through. The majority of my pins are from these three websites.

Below are some of my personal favorite resources for dyslexia. I often use Pinterest to save specific topics I want to use in the future.

  1. Understood.org. Holy moly! This website is ah-mazing!! They are all about providing resources and information to families of students with learning and attention issues. Parents can chat with experts on specific topics (make sure you RSVP), join discussions, use personalized tools, and check out a tonnnn of resources. One of my favorite current resource is “8 Reasons Kids Might Read Slowly”.
  2. LearningAlly.org. I recently discovered this website after a parent mentioned it during a tutoring session. Learning Ally provides audio books for students with dyslexia and learning disabilities (for a fee). One of my favorite aspects of this site is the app that they have to make life easier for readers. Students can simply pop on headphones and enjoy a book without struggling to decode.
  3. The Literacy Nest. I shared my love for The Literacy Nest Blog last week (check it out here). For parents that homeschool, teachers, and tutors, this website provides incredible resources. There is a ton of information on dyslexia, tips for parents, spelling, etc. There is information on Orton-Gillingham (OG) and on the multi-sensory approach to reading. Emily Gibbons (the creator of The Literacy Nest) also has a Teachers Pay Teachers store where educators and parents can purchase worksheets and activities to help students. There is also a newsletter that viewers can subscribe to in order to stay up to date.

Each site offers unique information/resources for families and educators about working with dyslexic students.

We Need to Talk…About Dyslexia

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month.

When I first started teaching, I’m not even sure I knew what dyslexia was. I took all the required college courses to teach secondary English, I did all of my practicum and student teaching, but dyslexia was never discussed.

I heard of Orton-Gillingham during my second or third year of teaching because one of the teachers in my building used it with her resource students. She knew I was going for my Reading Specialist certification and mentioned that I should take her place when she retires. At the time, I figured I’d be totally prepared to teach those kids because I would be a specialist.

Well, I was definitely wrong.

I live in NJ and have taught in public and charter schools in the state. We have amazing schools.

I have never had professional development through a school that included dyslexia.

I have never worked with a special education teacher to address dyslexic students in my gen. ed classroom.

I have a masters degree in Curriculum/Reading and a NJ and MI Reading Specialist certification, but I was never taught how to help students with dyslexia.

This is a problem.

For the last year and a half I have dived into the world of dyslexia. I started my Orton-Gillingham training online through Orton Gillingham Online Academy, which has been amazing. I can work at my own pace, ask questions in the Facebook group, and have access to incredible materials.

Over the summer I attended webinars through Learning Ally that focused on supporting dyslexic students in the classroom.

As an educator, I’m being open minded. I’m realizing that even at the middle school level we need to be addressing dyslexia in our schools. We need to realize that phonics and learning to read don’t stop in elementary school. We need to stop being afraid to say ‘dyslexia’. We need to train our teachers on what dyslexia looks like and how to help our dyslexic students.

But how do we do that?

By bringing awareness. Dyslexia is not just letters getting jumbled up when a person is reading. It is so, so much more. We need to talk about it. We need educate our teachers about it. We need to stop being afraid of it.

 

My Favorite Literacy Blogs

I love how social media has allowed me to connect with some amazing individuals over the years, and it has also introduced me to incredible members of the literacy world. I look to these fabulous ladies for inspiration and motivation on all things literacy :).

  1. Read Aloud Revival. If you’ve been following my blog, you know I’m OBSESSED with Sarah Mackenzie (see Reading Aloud Resources for Parents post). She is a homeschooling mom who has such an incredible passion for reading with her six kids. Her blog is geared towards families who read at home with their children. One of my favorite things that Mackenzie does is create book lists. Not only does this make life easier for busy families, it provides guidance in creating a culture of reading at home. Mackenzie also has an ah-mazing podcast.
  2. The Literacy Nest.  The last year and half I’ve been immersing myself in dyslexia and Orton-Gillingham. Through this journey I came across Emily Gibbons from The Literacy Nest, who is my guru in the dyslexia world. Her blog includes fabulous tips, strategies, and ideas to help dyslexic students. I love that the information can be used by teachers AND parents. She even has a Teachers Pay Teachers store where you can purchase resources to use with students (click here for the store). I’ve also had the privilege to learn from Emily through Tutor Success Academy and she is just awesome!
  3. Katie McKnight Literacy. I found Dr. Katie McKnight my first year teaching and have been following her ever since. She focuses on secondary (grades 6-12) reading and writing skills for the 21st century. What makes her stand out to me is her constant support for teachers and parents. She has published books, won multiple awards, and has presented all over the US. She even provides professional development online, in webinars, or in person.

 

How Becoming a Mommy Made Me a Better Teacher

With Mother’s Day right around the corner and with this week being Teacher Appreciation Week, I’ve been thinking a lot about being a mom and a teacher. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, and I have loved all of my teaching opportunities over the years. However, I have noticed that since Miss Molly was born I have become a better teacher.

I make the time for my students. The first four years of my teaching career I had about 125 students every year. I was constantly grading, lesson planning, attending meetings, trying to achieve tenure, etc. I was so focused on trying to keep my head above water, that I often did not get the opportunity to get to know my students. I admit it, I was one of those teachers that would feel annoyed when I got a parent email because I didn’t have time for it.

Fast forward to being a teacher mommy- I do my absolute best to put parents and students first. Many of the students I work with have a lot going on. They struggle with depression, anxiety, bullying, etc. I try to be supportive of students in and out of the classroom by asking how things are going or listening to their story. I communicate with parents more and make the time to talk/listen about what is happening at home. It’s amazing what parents will tell you if you just listen. Why do I do this?  I see now how a student’s personal life truly impacts their academics because I see it with my daughter.

I go out of my way for my students. Before I became a mommy, I would go above and beyond  for my students here and there. I would advocate for my students by making referrals and attending meetings, but once it was out of my hands I would stop being involved. As a teacher mommy, now I do more for my students. I have had students call me the night before Easter with questions because that was the only time they had to work as a student athlete. I have texted and graded work for students at 11:30 PM when their class ended at midnight so we could ensure they earned a passing grade. Why do I do this? I would want someone to do this for my child.

I take IEPS more seriously. Before I was a mommy, I would follow IEPs, but when I had no in-class support and I was dealing with students ranging from 2nd-8th grade reading levels, it became a challenge to make sure I was giving my classified students enough support. At this point, a lot of my attention was on my at-risk population because of the school’s goal. I did what I had to do, but I could have done more.

Now, not only do I modify assignments for my students (providing alternative texts, changing expectations, etc.) but I experiment and research. I’m going for my Orton Gillingham certification (one of these days I will finish it) and I’m constantly looking for new ideas to use with my students. This week I attended a webinar from the International Dyslexia Association about using Assistive Technologies (AMAZING!!) to see how I can help my virtual students. I spend more time giving super specific feedback on student work. I even give sentence stems and fill in the blank thesis statements for those who need it. Why do I do this? Every child learns differently. Molly is incredible with her verbal skills, but the girl just didn’t want to walk when she was a year old. She preferred to crawl or walk on her knees to move around. As a parent, I was concerned because I saw other little ones running on the playground at 9 months old. Not only have I learned not to compare children, but it opened my eyes that every single student is different and needs appropriate support.