Guest editorial: Park City making strides in addressing dyslexia | ParkRecord.com

Guest editorial: Park City making strides in addressing dyslexia

Elissa Aten
PC READS president

Within the next hour, you might order from a menu, return emails and review utility bills. Imagine for a moment what your day would be like if you struggled to read. Daily activities many of us take for granted are difficult or even impossible for the 20% of Americans who are functionally illiterate. One of the most common reasons for an individual to struggle with reading, writing or spelling is dyslexia. In fact, dyslexia is the most common learning disability, affecting up to 1 in 5 individuals.

As October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, PC READS wants to share efforts underway to elevate literacy here in Park City. We are proud to be part of a collaborative effort working to make an immediate, lasting impact on our students, teachers and community through elementary school reading instruction.

PC READS has been advocating for systemic changes to our district's reading program since 2014. We've shared personal stories with School Board members, met with teachers to understand their needs and held numerous community events to spread dyslexia awareness. We've also educated ourselves and, through training programs and national conferences, built a national network of experts willing to provide advice. We understand that teaching reading is complex and believe that teachers want and need more training, support and resources to increase reading success. We also know that change takes commitments of both time and money.

This year, the Park City School District (PCSD) is implementing Wilson Fundations in all K-2 classrooms, a change that impacts about 1,000 students. Fundations is a reading program that successfully helps ALL students by providing critical foundational skills through 20-30 minutes of daily systematic and explicit instruction. This approach to reading benefits all students and is necessary for about 30% of a typical classroom, including our ELL and dyslexic students.

The decision to implement a new reading program was not rushed. Rather, it was a thoughtful, thorough process that exemplifies how strategic collaboration leads to success. Months of committee work led to a Dyslexia Initiative beginning Fall 2016, including a Fundations pilot at McPolin Elementary, Orton-Gilligham training and dyslexia awareness presentations. A Steering Committee followed the work throughout the year, updates were presented to the School Board and a formal assessment was completed through the Park City Education Foundation (PCEF).

It has been personally gratifying to represent PC READS and the needs of at-risk readers throughout this process. With the continued leadership of Julie Hastings, who oversees the Wilson Implementation Task Force and the Steering Committee, and the dedicated work of our classroom teachers, PC READS is confident that Fundations will positively impact all of our students, especially at-risk readers.

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The Dyslexia Initiative, including the rollout of Fundations districtwide, would not have been possible without the private financial support of The Hall Family Fund through their donor directed gift to PCEF in support of this work. The Halls are passionate about early identification and intervention for dyslexic students. In addition to supporting the Initiative, they have partnered with PC READS to build a Professional Development Grant Fund to support teacher education. Recently, this fund supported four teacher's attendance at the Wasatch Reading Summit.

We are fortunate to live in a community that values our children and their education. We are fortunate to have educators willing to make changes that take time. We are fortunate for families like the Halls, who continue to invest in our youth after their own children are grown. We thank the Hall Family Fund, the PCSD and the PCEF for their commitment to change. Together, we should be proud to know that our efforts are making a difference for students in our community. Together, we are elevating literacy.