Advocates pushing for legislation to help dyslexic students

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — Advocates for students with dyslexia are now pushing for legislation giving all students the opportunity to learn in a way that’s best for them. The “right to read” bill would change the curriculum in schools and certify teachers in a specific way.

Even the outgoing Education Commissioner Ken Wagner admits the state isn’t doing what’s right for dyslexic students. This bill would change the way elementary school students are taught to read, a method that would help all students, whether they struggle with dyslexia or not.

A crisis in our schools; state test scores show nearly 60 percent of students are struggling to read.

“Teachers are not trained how to teach children actually to read which is shocking to most people,” says Suzanne Arena with Decoding Dyslexia RI. She’s advocating for legislation that would change how all students are taught.

“There’s nothing natural about reading, so children really have to be taught each letter, each sound and teachers unfortunately aren’t trained,” she says.

The right to read bill would require elementary school teachers and reading specialists to be re–trained. It would also change the curriculum in schools, something that would help students with dyslexia excel, instead of falling behind.

“How frustrated do you think you’d get? And how long would it take to start feeling depression, anxiety, suicide self harm,” says Arena.

Outgoing Education Commissioner Ken Wagner agrees teachers aren’t doing enough to help vulnerable students. RIDE supports the bill and is hopeful more funding will be made available to expand learning opportunities for teachers.

All of it, a good sign to Arena.

“They’re children, these are lives, so we really need to make sure we’re using the right curriculum,” she says.

A spokesperson for the Governor says she hasn’t reviewed the bill yet but supporting students with complex learning needs is a top priority and an area the incoming RIDE commissioner has extensive experience in.

The bill will be introduced on Wednesday.

© WLNE/ABC 6 2019