Assemblymember Simon Hosts 8th Annual Dyslexia Awareness Day: 150+ Students, Educators, Legislators Call for an End to NY’s Literacy Crisis

Assemblymembers Simon, Carroll, Epstein & Senators Hoylman-Sigal, Jackson, Myrie hosts 8th Annual Dyslexia Awareness Day

Albany, NY – On May 17th, 2023, Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon and her colleagues Senators Brad Hoylman-Sigal, Robert Jackson, and Zellnor Myrie and Assemblymembers Robert Carroll and Harvey Epstein hosted the 8th Annual Dyslexia Awareness Day: Advocating for Literacy for All. Students, parents, advocates, and educators from across New York State shared personal experiences and championed legislation to combat New York’s literacy crisis. State Education Department Commissioner Dr. Betty Rosa also attended. 

The event featured a Town Hall during which students with dyslexia and related learning disabilities spoke out and shared their experiences, parents shared advocacy strategies and urged New York to do more for their kids, and experts highlighted the need for creating inclusive learning environments. Legislative solutions included ensuring that institutions of higher learning educate future teachers in the science of reading to improve literacy rates (S6713 Jackson/A4659 Simon), establishing a dyslexia task force (S2599 Hoylman-Sigal/A133 Carroll), and conducting dyslexia screening for those who are incarcerated and lack a high school diploma or GED (S2304 Myrie/A1645 Simon).

“New York has a literacy crisis: two thirds of 4th graders can’t read proficiently. This is a complete failure to prepare our children for the most basic of life skills. New York’s approach to reading instruction badly needs a facelift. Teachers and teachers in training need to be educated about the science of reading, especially critical for children with dyslexia and related learning disabilities,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, who started Dyslexia Awareness Day. “It will take a multi-pronged effort from early screening, to implementing effective literacy instruction in the classroom, to incorporating it into our colleges of education. The student testimonials we heard were powerful examples of the challenges people with dyslexia experience, what’s working and what’s not working. New York must act, instead of permitting teaching practices that have been thoroughly debunked. Serious changes are needed or we risk continuing to leave our children behind and fueling the school-to-prison pipeline.”

NYS State Education Commissioner Dr. Betty A. Rosa said, “Reading is a foundational skill for 21st-century learners, and proficient reading has an impact on a student’s entire education, career, and life beyond.In addition to numerous supports already available, the Department is working right now to provide new, extensive PK-12 literacy and professional learning resources. I am grateful for our collaboration with Assemblymember Simon to bring increased awareness to the critical issue of literacy in our schools, and to Dyslexia and other learning differences.”

NeQuan McLean, President of the Education Council Consortium, said: “My journey to improve our education system began as a father of a child with dyslexia, and I discovered the Department of Education did not have the resources to help my son. I'm excited to join Dyslexia Awareness Day with my organization Education Council Consortium today to fight for a more inclusive, equitable and antiracist public school system that caters to the needs of all learners, especially those with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. Black and brown students face even greater hurdles for reading resources and support. The ECC has embraced the science of reading and we are encouraged by the legislative push to properly teach our teachers reading instruction. We must support our children early or risk their futures. I thank Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon for her leadership on literacy advocacy and hosting this important event."

State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal said, "My husband and I only learned our daughter was dyslexic when she was already in 4th grade. In fact, estimates show we have over 200,000 undiagnosed dyslexic students in New York City alone, contributing to the unacceptable reality that half of the city’s students in grades 3 - 8 are not considered proficient readers. We must do better by our students and modernize our approach to teaching literacy. That's why I sponsor S.2599 with Assembly Member Carroll to establish a dyslexia task force. The bills in this package ensure that students receive early intervention for dyslexia and dysgraphia and that our teachers can fully support the educational experience of all New York students. I look forward to both houses passing these comprehensive bills this year.”

"Recognizing the significance of Dyslexia Awareness Day marks a crucial milestone in fostering a more inclusive and equitable education system in New York State. This resolution represents a vital step towards improving literacy rates and providing teachers with training in the science of reading. It ensures that every student, including those with dyslexia, receives the education they deserve," stated State Senator Jackson. "Let us embrace diversity, challenge misconceptions, and make a difference in the lives of individuals with dyslexia, not just today but every day. I thank Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon for her unwavering leadership in ensuring that we collectively enhance our support for students and families affected by dyslexia."

"By ensuring we screen more New Yorkers for dyslexia - including and especially those who are being incarcerated - we can improve literacy and opportunities for young people. I'm grateful to the advocates and my colleagues for raising awareness of dyslexia and related learning needs, and look forward to advancing this legislation into law," said State Senator Zellnor Myrie

“Every day I have parents calling my office desperate because their child can’t read and they don’t know where to turn.It is high time that the State stop turning its back on children with dyslexia and the broader literacy crisis we are facing and take steps to adopt statewide standards for literacy curricula and teacher training based on the science of reading,” said Assemblymember Robert Carroll

As we mark Dyslexia Awareness Day, it is crucial to shine a spotlight on the importance of this event and the profound impact it has on young people who navigate the world with dyslexia," said Marcus Soutra, President of Eye to Eye. "We recognize the unique strengths and talents that neurodiverse young people bring to the table, and Dyslexia Awareness Day serves as a powerful reminder that by embracing neurodiversity, celebrating differences, and providing support, we can unlock the full potential of these remarkable individuals. Together, let us work towards enacting policies that foster inclusive and empowering learning environments for all young people, regardless of their learning differences."

“We are grateful to be up in Albany with so many legislators who are working to make sure that all students have access to the instruction and support they need to learn to read,” said Emily Hellstrom, Co-Founder of Literacy Academy Collective. “This is one of the greatest Civil Rights issue of our time, and the crisis is real for the students and families we hear from every day. The children of this state do not have time to wait, which is why we are opening the first district public school specifically designed to support struggling readers and students with dyslexia. These legislators and this event have helped make this possible. This is only the beginning.”

“It was great to hear a lot of young people tell their stories and experiences with dyslexia. I hope to see legislation pass so that children don't have to have a traumatic experience learning with dyslexia, and to teach teachers how to teach kids who are neurodivergent so kids can thrive in schools,” said Sammi Sapira, High School Junior with Dyslexia from NJ who attends school in NYC.

“It was difficult watching my daughter struggle as a young student with dyslexia. We were so lucky to have resources to guide us through our journey, so I can't imagine what it's like to go through that without that support. My daughter is now thriving after all of the hard work she put in, and I hope more children in the future don't have to struggle as much to learn how to read. Thank you Jo Anne Simon for your leadership,” said Lauren Sapira, mother of Sammi Sapira. 

Photos available upon request.