When I met Walt in July, he was hesitant to open up about his struggles with literacy and dyslexia. I recognized that tentative manner as one extremely common in learners who experience long-term difficulty with reading, and I set out to find ways to help him gain confidence and build his skills.
In our first tutoring session, I watched Walt become frustrated with the amount of time he had to spend on each letter in every word. He relied heavily on using context and pictures to guess at words. The very sight of a long word a few sentences ahead was enough to make him freeze up and struggle with words he already knew.
He was resistant to the idea of meeting more than once a week, unconvinced that our time together would be helpful. I promised him that I wouldn't give up if he would agree to give me a month of sessions to show him that I could help him. Things started off slowly, and he wasn't excited about the work. He had difficulty identifying and decoding letters because of his dyslexia. A few weeks in, we introduced overlays into our lessons.
For some students with dyslexia, placing transparent overlays in saturated colors on top of a text can increase the text's readability. Reading Connections provided me with an assortment of these to try. Red and purple didn't help at all. Green and blue seemed to each help Walt a little, so I layered the blue over the green. With this, Walt's reading improved significantly almost immediately, and his attitude towards reading changed completely. The number of words in a text on his reading level that caused him significant problems dropped by over 60%.
That tutoring session made all the difference for Walt. In just a few months' time, he became a confident learner, radiating positive energy and a desire to challenge himself. This transformation has been incredibly inspiring to those of us who have the pleasure of interacting with him. These days, you can find him tackling long words with patience and persistence or practicing his writing skills and reading comprehension.
We now meet twice a week, and it's not uncommon for our sessions to run well past the allotted time quite often because we have a lot of fun working together. Watching Walt grow and learn new skills has been incredibly rewarding for me as his tutor. He is the most eager, persistent learner with whom I've had the joy of working, and he seems like a completely different person, both in the classroom and outside of it. Walt now has the confidence to be independent, no longer relying heavily on the help of others to navigate his life.
Of his experience in Reading Connections, Walt writes, "I was embarrassed by having dyslexia, and I limited myself in a lot of ways. I had one book that was my haven, and I returned to it over and over. I had all this fear in my life because I couldn't read, and I was living my worst-case scenario. I had totally stopped being open with people, and I decided I had to change something. The confidence that Reading Connections gave me has helped me get a better job. In the future, I want to go to college and continue learning and bettering myself."