Reddened face, blazing eyes, spit flying through gritted teeth, “It’s not bloody easy! They just keep saying: ‘C’mon, you can do it, it’s easy!’ (sing song tone then back to ferocious)…It’s not bloody easy!”
This outburst was from one of the men I taught to read in prison.
It had been preceded by this comment: “You were the one who got inside my head and worked it out”. The missing key for this learner was phonemic awareness. He didn’t have it. But when we trained it into place, it was the key that unlocked the rest of the written language code!
He made incredibly rapid progress and went from being a non-reader who had never read a book, who recognised a couple of dozen words though could not decode a single one, to a daily reader and writer. In just four months.
Well through his fourth decade, it was clear to me that if I’d met him as a seven year old I’d likely have diagnosed Childhood Apraxia of Speech and Dyslexia.
He was always able to learn to read. That potential was latent. But no one had known how to find the ‘just right level of challenge’ to make learning to read joyfully accessible through a systematic process.
We know more now than when his education began in the sixties. And we’ve lost some too.
To me Code REaD is about shouting to the nation that our people are getting burned. Like this friend I made in prison. His life was burned by the disadvantage and humiliation of not having a skill that… in the end… could be taught in just four months. The Code REaD message is that our people who have dyslexia and other challenges to their written language skills, can learn and improve and make masteries!
To me Code REaD is about shouting to the nation that there is a fire in dyslexic disadvantage. But we know where the hoses are. And there are ‘firies’ in our midst who know just what to do.
We do know exactly what to do to teach reading, writing and spelling – from an evidence-base. The task that lies ahead is to bring what is now clearly known into widespread, systematic, equitably-available, daily practice in all places of learning.
Now that’s a Code REaD response!
In the next week my friend wrote “Thank you for finding time to come in to help me out. I still finding (sic) it hard but I am sticking with it. It’s new to me. I didn’t think I would able (sic) to do it… I seem to be happier and not as confused – bloody hell, I am using words I would never say!... I am doing this to make me better and I am happy that somebody has worked out how to”.
Being ‘better’ and ‘happier’ are two of the most common emotions associated with desisting from crime.
There is much human suffering that will be doused in our rallying to the call of this Code REaD.
It is my privilege to be connected. Joined voices bring the beauty of the choir.