I have a heart for the struggling reader. I enjoy sitting with a child and listening to them read. I try to listen intently and not lose focus as the reader labors over each word. I offer beginning and ending sounds to try to help the reader “sound out” each consonant and vowel. It is pure joy when I hear a student who has picked at a word, sound by sound, finally be able to string the sounds together and read the word.
I have spent a lifetime teaching special education, eight years teaching students with disabilities and fifteen years coaching and teaching special education teachers. In the middle of all the teaching, I spent 5 years working as a reading tutor. Most of my teaching career has been spent working with students who have reading disabilities. I was elated when I saw this article earlier in the week, U.S. Education Department Awards $4.4 Million to Improve Literacy and Education Outcomes for Students with Disabilities. It is not always the case that throwing a lot money at something will make it better. However, I think when you put a lot of money toward the right things, it can definitely help remedy the situation.
U.S. Secretary, John B. King, said “When we improve literacy skills for children with disabilities, including those with dyslexia, we are not just teaching them how to read, we are opening doors to a lifetime of more positive opportunities, such as improved academic skills, reduction in behavioral incidences, increased school completion, and lifelong learning, These awards will continue to address inclusion, equity and opportunity for all children, including those with disabilities.”
The Office of Special Education gave several sizeable monetary awards. The first award is to provide funds for a national center to support the literacy skills of students with reading disabilities. The support center will work with states and school systems to use evidence based practices for students with disabilities.
The second award is to provide funding for a national center of intensive intervention. Most students with reading difficulties have had them throughout their school careers. The intervention center will try to provide systematic and intensive interventions for children with ongoing reading disabilities to give them better opportunities for the future.
The last award is actually made up of three grants to develop model demonstration projects for English Language Learners who have learning disabilities in reading. These model demonstration projects will focus on Multi-Tier System of Supports or MTSS. MTSS provides tiered support for all students who are at risk for failure, including students with disabilities.
As an experienced special educator, I am eager to see the data after the awards have been given and a renewed focus on literacy skills has been addressed. The goal we all have for our students is to see them graduate, prepared for the future. In the meantime, I will continue to support literacy skills instruction, provide interventions and make changes to instruction to ensure students with disabilities are able to read. My heart will be with my struggling readers as I do everything in my power to provide better outcomes for students with disabilities.