When I started working on the Every Child Reads initiative, I didn't realize how close to home this campaign would hit. My cousin Michele was born premature, weighing only two pounds at birth. Because of this, she was screened for developmental delays until she was three years old.
Michele’s parents knew something wasn’t right – she wasn’t keeping up with her peers, she had to be held back in first grade, and when she entered fifth grade, she continued to struggle. Her parents took her to be tested outside of the school system, and she was diagnosed with dyslexia. Michele received additional learning tools, but continued to struggle all through middle school; she was placed in special education classes where she was miles ahead of her peers in comprehension, but not reading.
When she entered high school, she was reading at a 2nd grade level. Her parents paid out-of-pocket for her to see a special interventionist once again, and she was finally put on a reading plan that worked for her and assigned a reading coach who understood her unique needs. Michele went from reading at a 2nd grade level her freshman year to a 6th grade level her junior year.
After graduating high school, Michele attended Westfield State. Her experience with dyslexia led her to study early childhood development with a concentration in reading. She was able to take the skills she learned and the resources she needed and use these in college, where she excelled. Today, she is a preschool teacher at a Montessori school in Lynnfield and loves it. She’s also working towards her masters in early childhood education at Gordon College.
When Michele told me her story, I was shocked; this didn’t happen in the 1950s, this was just ten years ago. Children should not have to struggle in school and in life when we have the tools to help them. Michele knows that if her parents didn’t have the means and know-how to take her to a reading interventionist, she probably wouldn’t have graduated from high school.
Stories like my cousin Michele’s make me proud of the work I do. Please make a gift today to help us ensure that all children have the resources they need to succeed in life.