LANSING, Mich. (April 21, 2021) — Sens. Jeff Irwin (D–Ann Arbor), Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia), Jim Runestad (R-White Lake), and Lana Theis (R-Brighton) have introduced legislation to improve child literacy rates in honor of Dyslexia Awareness Month.

The four bills address factors that impact literacy performance in children, specifically pertaining to screening and treating aspects of dyslexia.

“Reading and writing are the foundation of success in our society, but more than 50% of 3rd and 4th graders in Michigan are not proficient in these essential skills, which is why we need to address this issue,” Sen. Irwin said. “Michigan has no statewide strategy to screen and treat the most common language-based learning disability, dyslexia, which means we are failing our students. This bill package would go a long way to providing our teachers and our children with the support they need to succeed.”

The senators hope the bills introduced would ultimately help identify students who are exhibiting problems with learning language and reading skills, and provide schools and educators with the necessary intervention and tiered supports they need to help these students succeed.

“Educators want nothing more than to help their students thrive academically and in life,” said Sen. Theis, who chairs the Senate Committee on Education and Career Readiness. “By preparing our teachers to understand the characteristics and effects of dyslexia, we can ensure they are better able to help students achieve. As someone with a family member who has overcome dyslexia, I know firsthand the importance of having teachers who are prepared to intervene.”

It has been estimated that 5% to 10% of the population are living with dyslexia, which is anywhere from 108,000 to 217,000 children in Michigan alone. The legislation would help ensure that educators can understand, identify, and treat dyslexia to prevent Michigan students from falling through the cracks, and includes:

  • Senate Bill 380 (Irwin) would require school districts to screen students in grades K-3 for reading difficulties using a universal screening assessment. If the assessment shows a child is experiencing difficult learning to decode, the school district must ensure support is provided in the form of a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS).
  • Senate Bill 381 (Theis) would require teacher preparation institutions to offer instruction on the characteristics of dyslexia, the consequences of dyslexia, evidence-based interventions and accommodations for children with dyslexia, and methods to develop a classroom infrastructure that meets the needs of students with an MTSS in place.
  • Senate Bill 382 (Polehanki), would require that new teaching certificates are only issued after an individual has received instruction on the five areas outlined in SB 381.
  • Senate Bill 383 (Runestad) would create a five-member advisory committee to develop a dyslexia resource guide.

“I am pleased to be part of a bill package that makes meaningful changes to help students with dyslexia,” Sen. Polehanki said. “My bill makes sure that teachers have the preparation they need to help these students.”

Dyslexia, a learning disability with a cluster of symptoms, results in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. It’s characterized by difficulties with accurate or fluent word recognition and poor decoding abilities. With early intervention, educators and children can often effectively treat dyslexia.

“As someone who has personally struggled to overcome dyslexia, I know how hard it can be for children in the classroom. It’s long past time we stand up for some of our most vulnerable students and make a real difference for them,” Sen. Runestad said. “We’ve put these bills together with experts who understand this struggle firsthand.  My bill will establish an advisory committee to employ their experiences and knowledge in guiding the department to make sure no child is overlooked, and every student is given a chance.”