Charlie and Liz Leonard
are familiar with the difficulties that a learning difference can bring to a relationship, a family and a struggling learner. "The best thing that ever happened was finding Learning Ally," says Liz, Charlie's mom. Today, the mother-son duo is looking for ways to spread the word.
"School was horrible. It was frustrating and I never wanted to go. I felt out of the loop, scared and embarrassed," says Charlie. "My mom would get emails from teachers saying 'Charlie needs to put forth more effort in his school work.' I tried to explain to everyone that I was doing my best, but no one believed me.
Finally, an answer; I am not stupid! My mom cried and felt awful that she could have helped me sooner." "I also acted out, got angry and had daily migraine headaches from getting so frustrated. My parents kept telling me, 'You just need to read more.' They didn't understand how truly grueling reading was for me."
In sixth grade, Liz decided to have Charlie tested and he was diagnosed with moderate to high dyslexia. "It was bittersweet. Finally, an answer; I am not stupid! My mom cried and felt awful that she could have helped me sooner."
Shortly after his diagnosis, Charlie began receiving more help from teachers and was introduced to Learning Ally. "It helped tremendously. I can read just about any book now. My confidence has risen extremely high along with my ability. It is such a great confidence builder to actually follow and understand what you are reading!"
Liz explains that with Learning Ally, Charlie went from reading one book a summer to reading eight. His Accelerated Reader test, a widely used reading software program that measures comprehension, transformed from below 50 percent to 90-100 percent. Charlie's prior grades of C's and B's turned into A's and B's. During this last semester of his seventh grade year, he made high honor roll, something he'd never done before. "It was an incredible jump and it's been a wonderful tool for us to keep him engaged and up to par with kids in his class."
Charlie is now 13 and going into eighth grade. He spoke at Learning Ally's fundraising event in Denver, Colorado and shared his story. "I tried to get everyone to help because if they look at my life and how much I've grown, they'll see that if a lot of people get involved, everyone can read and have access."
Now he really wants to go to college and I’ll feel comfortable sending him because he has the right tools that will give him the ability to learn." "I'm all about getting this out to everyone who needs it. We started a program to get 10 playback devices at Charlie's school to help other kids," says Liz. "Charlie transformed from a kid who used to fight me to a student who is now helping the other kids. And for him to speak publicly at age 13 and make people cry and laugh; I'm just so proud of him. People don't realize how much it changes you and how much it helps.
"From a mother's standpoint, finding Learning Ally brings complete relief. I kept thinking how he was going to crash and burn in high school, and maybe drop out or turn to drugs, all because he felt he couldn't do it; he couldn't learn. Now he really wants to go to college and I’ll feel comfortable sending him because he has the right tools that will give him the ability to learn."
"Before Learning Ally, I didn't really read at all," says Charlie. "I've already read five books this summer and now I'm reading Tim Tebow's Through My Eyes. I'm so thankful to the volunteers for making my and other kids’ lives easier.
"I never used to be told, 'Great job, Charlie! Way to go! You're doing great!', but now I hear it more and more and that feels so much better than, 'You need to try harder.' Being a member of Learning Ally has lifted my confidence and I plan on paying it forward to whoever I can help. Everyone deserves a chance to be successful; I got one and I am so grateful."
- Jenny Falke