Above: Parker Goldman, East Greenwich resident and a student at the Wheeler School, demonstrates the reader pen technology at the E.G. Free Library. Submitted photo
By Sarah Goldman
Walking into the East Greenwich Free Library this month, you won’t get far without noticing red lights adorning windows, walls and tables. That is because East Greenwich, including the library, is going red for dyslexia awareness.
“Going red” for dyslexia is an international campaign, but it’s fairly new to Rhode Island. For one week, buildings and local landmarks are lit red as a visible and tangible symbol for anyone struggling with this diagnosis. It is a means of celebrating neuro-difference and embracing it.
Dyslexia is the most common learning difference in the world. Upwards of 20 percent of school children are dyslexic. So the likelihood that you know someone who is dyslexic or someone who has a dyslexic child – is very high. What you might not know though, is how hard it can be to learn differently in today’s world.
According to the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, dyslexia is a neurological difference that takes away an individual’s ability to read and, sometimes, understand quickly and automatically. It can also make it difficult to retrieve spoken words easily – like forgetting a word that you know.
It is not a visual impairment. Making words bigger does not make them instantly easier to read. Nor is it tied in any way to intelligence. Just because reading is hard does not make a person less smart. The dyslexic brain is just wired differently and so it needs to learn to read differently.
As a parent of a dyslexic child, I can attest that sometimes we spend so much time focusing on dyslexic weaknesses that we forget all about dyslexic strengths. People with dyslexia can be highly intelligent, creative thinkers who have strong reasoning, communication and visual-spacial skills. They might excel at math or art or sports or creative storytelling.
To prove the point, take a moment if you will, and google “famous people with dyslexia.” The list is jaw-dropping – a virtual who’s who list of actors, scientists, CEOs and athletes. They all have one thing in common, they followed paths that capitalized on their own personal dyslexic strengths. Smart thinking.
Unfortunately, it’s a difficult and often isolating journey for a child to get from diagnosis to a corner office or seven-figure movie deal. As a community, the best way we can support these kids is by acknowledging dyslexia as a learning difference and educating ourselves and our families. This is why Dyslexia Awareness month is so important.
So let me invite you to learn more. Please stop by the East Greenwich Free Library and head to the reference area where you will find a takeaway sheet about dyslexia and lists of books on the subject and featuring dyslexic characters and authors. Ask EG’s incredible library team about their huge catalog of audiobooks or where to find decodable readers and graphic novels. Talk to librarian Diane Hogan about the reader pen she purchased herself so she could understand the very real challenges of reading a middle school text book when dyslexic.
And while on the subject, let me also invite you to join local advocacy groups, students and elected officials on the State House steps as we Light Rhode Island RED for Dyslexia on Friday, Oct. 14, at 5 p.m. Watching buildings all over Providence go red in awareness is a powerful message of acceptance and understanding for anyone who has struggled with their diagnosis. As the kids say, it’s gonna be lit.
For more information on the Light Rhode Island Red for Dyslexia campaign, please find it on Facebook or Instagram: @lightrhodeislandred. For local help connecting to local resources, visit Decoding Dyslexia RI at www.ddri.org.