BBC world news published a story recently about a determined young girl, Samyra, who made a bet with her camp counselor to read 10 books in just five weeks. If she completed the bet, Oliver, would dye his hair any color she chose, but there was one catch, Samyra has dyslexia, a learning disability that makes it difficult to read books in print. Since early childhood, Samyra hated to read until her mom and teacher teamed up to find a solution.
That solution was audiobooks read aloud with human narration. Samyra’s school had provided her with access to Learning Ally, a reading accommodation that helps dyslexic kids listen to textbooks and literature on a device, like a tablet or smartphone, as they follow along the highlighted text. This multisensory approach provides the reader with more context of the story and eases the burden of frantically attempting to decode words, which slows the reading process to a crawl and frustrates the reader.
To ace the bet with Oliver, Samrya chose the Whatever After Series, a modern day fairytale by Sarah Mlynowski. When her mom, Kristen, saw her face light up with joy, she knew this would change her daughter’s life. “She became a totally different kid,” said Kristen.
Five weeks later, Samyra accomplished her goal. She read 10 books and 1796 pages. Oliver dyed his hair pink and she and Oliver were very proud. Kristen said, “Samrya would have never accepted Oliver’s challenge had Learning Ally not been her ‘secret weapon’.
Before Audiobooks…Pain and Angst
Prior to receiving access to audiobooks, Samyra didn’t sleep well. She always felt sick on the way to school. She had suffered horrible anxiety. She would tell her mom that she didn’t understand how other kids could read and know the answer, when she was still trying to comprehend the question.
Kristen said, “How nerve-wracking it must be for kids with dyslexia to be called upon in class to read aloud and feel so inadequate?”
After years of mentioning her concerns to teachers, Kristen was grateful to her daughter’s 5th grade Science teacher, Mrs. Spence, who wondered why the youngster had not grasped the mechanics of reading. She observed these warning signs:
- Emotional frustration with reading assignments
- Lack of comprehension of the story
- Taking hours to read a short book
- Poor spelling and handwriting
- Difficulty understanding the sounds in words and mixing up letters
Waiting for a Formal Diagnosis
After a series of tests, her school gave Samyra an individual education plan (IEP) that provided extra time on classwork, a tutor who worked on phonetics with her, the ability to have tests read aloud and access to Learning Ally’s more than 80,000 audiobooks. She and her mom would wait nine long months for a formal diagnosis at the local hospital Dyslexia testing center.
Kristen said, “Over many years of talking with teachers, I heard the same comments – “it was normal for children to go through this,” “she would outgrow it,” “she wasn’t trying.” These assumptions were all wrong. I wish I had been more persistent in pursuing resources, like audiobooks.”
Today, Samrya is close to reading at grade level and is working on her school’s “Read 40 books challenge,” that she will accomplish with ease using Learning Ally’s mobile reading app, to read anytime and anywhere. “This technology is her constant companion,” said Kristen. “I hope more parents will encourage a struggling child to listen to an audiobook and see if it makes a difference. Audiobooks help children with dyslexia gain learning confidence in whatever they decide to tackle.”
10 Million Students…Probably Many More!
Today, more than 10 million students in the U.S. are dyslexic, and probably many, many more have trouble keeping pace in school and believing in themselves as good learners.
If you suspect your child has dyslexia, please share your concerns with your doctor, your school administrators and their teachers, and ask for help.
About Learning Ally
Learning Ally is a leading nonprofit ed-tech organization delivering a comprehensive learning solution for struggling readers in elementary, middle and high schools. Our proven solution includes the most extensive library of human-read audiobooks that students want and need to read both at home and at school. This reading experience helps accelerate learning, enables a new level of access to knowledge and powerfully increases confidence and self-belief. Learning Ally empowers over 370,000 students with improved comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, and critical thinking skills. For over 70 years, we have helped transform the lives of struggling readers by bridging the gap between their reading capability and their academic potential as they confidently become lifelong learners who thrive in school and beyond.