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Dyslexia Interventionist Shares Reading Strategies to Create a Dyslexia-Friendly Classroom

Categories: Education & Teaching, Learning Disabilities, Student Centric Learning, Teacher Best Practices, The Great Reading Games

elementary students standing in classroom

Nelda Reyes, Dyslexia/Reading Interventionist at DeZavala Elementary School, San Marcos, TX shares best practices to inspire reading and learning through audiobooks. 
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Decoding Every Word is Tiring

If you had to decode every word you ever read, would you tire of reading? I would.

For my students with dyslexia, every word on a printed page is a challenge to decipher. Over time, this frustration causes academic progress to stall. Without the right reading accommodations and tiered literacy interventions, these students will statistically underperform and fail. They will withdraw emotionally and we do not want this to happen.

I am an elementary teacher and dyslexia interventionist for DeZavala Elementary School at SMCISD  in San Marcos, Texas. My students are bright, underprivileged youngsters who are not good readers. They need the right strategies, resources and advocates to help them break through reading barriers. Children who cannot read well are not dumb or lazy, their brains do not process information like you or I. They need empowerment and tools to ease their struggle.

Audiobooks Are Learning Breakthroughs

To help more students enjoy breakthrough moments of reading, I use human-read audiobooks. Skilled narrators inspire my students to request and read more and more books. They like hearing different voices and become engaged with the story.

Some teachers and parents are skeptical. They ask me, “Is my child really learning when they listen to a book read aloud?” The answer is YES!

Thoughtful human narrators can heighten a struggling readers’ senses with correct intonation and phrasing. Their voices ease the burden of decoding to enable students to read with fluency and this leads to increased comprehension and larger vocabularies.

Digital Learning Dive-In

Years ago, our school did not have funding for technology devices, but I managed to get two Kindles. Kindles did not support Learning Ally, but a media specialist knew how to “jelly” the devices to work. I handed them to two students with stories they would not be able to read in print. Success! I could see real emotion on their faces. This was a game-changer! I needed more devices, so my dyslexia coordinator, Clarissa Talbert, made it happen.

This experience led me to create a video called (Fight.Song), where my students described in their own words and handwriting what it felt like to be dyslexic. Their compelling phrases pleaded viewers -- “Don’t give up on me.” “I need more time,” “Believe in me,” and “I learn through audiobooks.” That video made a big impact to teachers and administrators.

At a "Night of Empowerment for Parents”, Kathy Hansen, a former Director of Special Education saw my video. Kathy was the President of our School Board and has always been a strong supporter of my dyslexia/literacy initiatives in the district. She nominated me for the 2018 Winslow Coyne Reitnouer Excellence in Teaching Award, and I won!

Develop a Culture of Learners with Reading Practice

Teachers do an amazing job, but we do not always find the time to develop extra-curricular activities. Learning Ally does this for us. 

All year long, I can tap into teacher-supported activities that are engaging and fun. I use 33& Me and The Great Reading Games because my students love the digital leaderboard -- it’s like a reading cheerleader and scorekeeper. This quickens their desire to read in class and at home. They listen and learn. They retain information. They discuss stories. They practice reading.

Research proves that students who practice reading consistently for 20 minutes or more per day read with more fluency.

With Learning Ally, my students have access to a wide range of stories on and above their grade level. They can read and entertain themselves. We create fun activities like “Read with a hero, partner reading, class read-alouds, read to a parent, or to a pet,” a big hit! 

Many of my students score above average on the Texas STAAR. They are independent learners, confident and prepared. Some are top ten in their classes -- all great achievements!

Use human-read audiobooks to ease the painful process of decoding words in a textbook or a story for struggling readers. This will help them to increase reading stamina, vocabulary, comprehension, critical thinking skills and self-esteem. Do this, and the academic rewards you long for your students to achieve will become a reality and they will believe in themselves.

Join our thriving community of parents and educators who are making a real difference in helping more struggling readers reach their true learning potential.