Bipartisan Group of Senators Introduces Child Literacy Legislation During National Dyslexia Awareness Month

LANSING, Mich. — In honor of National Dyslexia Awareness Month, today a bipartisan group of Senators hosted a virtual press conference on legislation to improve child literacy in Michigan. Sen. Jeff Irwin (D–Ann Arbor), Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia), Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake), and Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton) recently introduced four bills to address factors that currently impact literacy performance for many children throughout the state.

“Over 50% of 3rd and 4th graders in Michigan are reading and writing below grade level. Learning to read and write is the foundation for success in our society and difficulty with reading holds kids back in every area of their lives,” said Sen. Jeff Irwin. “Despite the importance of literacy and the prevalence of dyslexia, Michigan has no statewide strategy to screen and treat the most common language-based learning disability in existence: dyslexia.”

This legislation focuses on identifying and intervening to help students with dyslexia, a learning disability that is characterized by difficulties with accurate or fluent word recognition and poor decoding abilities. These bills will help ensure that educators are adequately trained to understand dyslexia, to identify students early on who are struggling with learning the code, and to teach these students to break the code. The bill package includes:

“Educators want nothing more than to help their students thrive academically and in life,” said Sen. Lana 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 first-hand the importance of having teachers who are prepared to intervene.”

“My bill makes sure that future teachers are prepared to educate students with dyslexia before they begin their teaching careers. I am proud to be part of this bill package because we need to better serve dyslexic students in Michigan,” added Sen. Dayna Polehanki.

Dyslexia affects an estimated 5-10% of the population, which is anywhere from 108,000 to 217,000 children in Michigan alone. There are proven solutions to treat children with dyslexia, but early intervention is key.

“This legislation has far-reaching potential. Michigan children, no matter where they live or how much money their parents have, will receive instruction and intervention that is grounded in cognitive science. And, they will receive this instruction and intervention early — during a critical window of time, before negative consequences have kicked in,” said Lauren A. Katz, Language and Literacy Specialist, Ph.D., CCC-SLP.

“Michigan is dead last for helping students with dyslexia succeed, which is contributing to our failure to bridge the literacy gap, leaving students and families discouraged and hopeless,” said Sen. Jim Runestad. “We’ve put these bills together with folks who understand this struggle first-hand, and my bill will establish an advisory committee to employ their first-hand experiences and knowledge in guiding the department.”

“There are severe academic as well as psychological ramifications for children who do not adequately learn to read and write. We have proven methods to prevent some of these consequences by helping children acquire these skills, so they can learn and thrive. The Legislature has the responsibility to introduce these methods as quickly as possible,” concluded Sen. Irwin.


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