At a Scarsdale elementary school, our son was that third grader who could not read. We were those parents who fought to get a dyslexic diagnosis and proper services for our child. We became a Windward family because our son needed help. That was more than 17 years ago.
Reading the Inquirer’s June 3 special report on “Balanced literacy and dyslexia” brought back a flood of memories, emotions, frustrations and, most of all, anger. This article could have been written two decades ago. How many children has this negligence affected? How many parents have struggled to get their average-to-above-average intelligent child to read in a school district whose industry is education?
Dyslexia experts Bennett and Sally Shaywitz report 20% of the population is dyslexic. Their 2003 groundbreaking book “Overcoming Dyslexia,” now in its second edition, outlines successful instructional remediation based in scientific research and evidence. In existence for 96 years, The Windward School offers this type of instruction and training to students, teachers and school districts to remediate dyslexia. Why are 14 elementary and eight middle school students leaving their Scarsdale schools to attend Windward this year? These are the lucky ones. These are the kids who will learn to read, come back to Scarsdale High School untethered to technologies and other accommodations that read for them. Windward teaches students how to “crack the code” and be independent.
For second and third grade, our son left our neighborhood school for a district class at another Scarsdale elementary school. This program had two teachers. One specifically designated to teach our son to read. We pulled him out of that program at the end of third grade when he was reportedly reading within the second percentile. At our first year-end meeting with Windward, we were surprised our son made minimal progress, still reading in the single digits. The Windward teachers responded that they spent the year breaking bad habits.
Every day for years, we spent hours reading Windward word lists. At the end of eighth grade, our son was reading within the 81st percentile. He went to Scarsdale High School, Binghamton University, and just graduated with a master’s in education. He is a certified biology and chemistry teacher who has accepted an offer to spend 27 months teaching English as a foreign language, science and math in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer. You should see the stack of books he will take with him!
Windward taught our son what the Scarsdale School District could not. Windward changed the trajectory of his life, opening doors to opportunities, choices and a lifelong love of reading. Pulling our son out of the Scarsdale Schools for five years was the best decision we ever made as parents and the best use of our money. He would not be where he is today if we left him in the Scarsdale Schools when learning to read.
AVA and STEPHEN LAMBERT