What's the problem?
Many Michigan students are below grade level in reading and writing skills, ranking in the bottom third for fourth-grade reading nationally. Although many things may contribute, the primary factors impacting our State's low literacy performance are:
For children with dyslexia, these factors pose an even greater risk. There is, however, a proven way to identify students with difficulties learning to decode and recognize words, which can be indicative of dyslexia. Michigan is currently one of only a few states in the United States without this type of legislation in place.
These laws will also identify students that, although not necessarily dyslexic, would benefit from reading instruction grounded in the science of reading. Passing legislation to address these issues is key to helping children across Michigan fulfill their potential.
The science of reading means a cumulative and evolving body of evidence whose research studies follow a scientific process of inquiry and utilize scientific methods to help answer questions related to reading development and issues related to reading and writing derived from research from multiple fields of cognitive psychology, communication sciences, developmental psychology, education, special education, implementation science, linguistics, and neuroscience.
Watch the testimony
On February 6, 2024 and also in 2021, advocates talked to Michigan State Senators about the importance of passing legislation to help ALL children learn to read. Watch the compelling testimonies below, especially from Michigan students themselves (timestamp 25:04 in the first video).
Eight months ago, my 9-year-old daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia and began working with a private reading specialist using a research-based structured literacy program. 4 days a week for 45-minutes a day. For the first time, someone was providing a clear, strong ladder for her to climb. Maeve recently shared her experience, “Before I knew I had dyslexia and then right after I knew I had it, I felt like I had a big thick rope tied around me, and that rope was tied to a brick that was pulling me backward. Now, I feel like that rope is getting thinner and thinner, and I’m moving further and further away from that brick. Someday I might even decide to cut the rope.” What did a research-based structured literacy program with a trained professional do for my daughter? It empowered her with the tools she needs to succeed. This ladder exists, and with support, every child can learn to climb it.
-Amy Janssens, parent of Maeve (9 years old)
The "package" of bills Includes:
Screening to identify children having difficulties with decoding and word recognition skills using reliable and valid screening techniques. Difficulties with these skills has a negative effect on learning to read and can be indicative of dyslexia.
Improved instructional training to empower educators with the knowledge of a structured literacy, an evidence-based approach grounded in the science of reading to address decoding and word recognition deficits, within a 3-tiered system of support.
Improved training for future and current educators about dyslexia, its characteristics, secondary consequences, and accommodations that serve this population well.
A Dyslexia Guidebook developed by an advisory board within the Michigan Dept. of Education, which will be used by schools across Michigan.
Who is sponsoring these bills?
In the current 2023-2024 legislative term, legislation has been introduced to improve literacy education in Michigan! Previously, in the 2021-22 term similar legislation was passed in the Michigan Senate but were not taken up in the Michigan House of Representatives.
- Senate Bill 567(Irwin): Requires: screening students for decoding and word recognition difficulties in grades K-3 and if students are showing evidence of reading difficulties in grades 4-12,, professional learning for those that interface with students learning to read in structured literacy instruction grounded in the science of reading, characteristics of dyslexia and supporting students in a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS).
- Senate Bill 568 (Polehanki) Requires teacher preparation programs to offer instruction on dyslexia and related evidence-based instruction and supports grounded in the science of reading.
- House Bill 5098 (Glanville): Requires creation of an advisory committee to develop a dyslexia resource guide for schools and parents.
Virtual Coffee Hour Overview
In a virtual coffee hour session (recording available here), State Senator Jeff Irwin, a champion for science-based literacy instruction described the literacy challenge facing Michigan students that these bills aim to address. The portion about the proposed literacy bills starts at timestamp 12:30 in the video.
We love public school and desperately wanted to keep our kids there. But when my first grade twins struggled to learn to read and our school seemed to know no more than I did about how to help them, we had to make a change. Neither our public school teachers nor our principal nor the school reading interventionists knew anything about the signs of dyslexia or how to effectively teach kids with it. And so, with broken hearts, we pulled our kids out and placed them in a private school with a structured literacy curriculum. We also paid thousands of dollars for a private assessment and for effective tutoring. All while our beloved neighborhood school sat a block away with hearts in the right place but with no knowledge or skills to help us.
Speak to the decision makers for these bills...
The I Want to Help! page has a range of ways you can advocate for these bills publicly, as well as to your own State representatives.
Additionally, the following legislators serving on the education committees in both the Michigan Senate and the Michigan House of Representatives need to hear our voices!
Use this template or your own story to show your support with committee members.
Learning to read is a civil right and that right needs to be accessible to ALL children across Michigan. Senate bills 567-568 and House bill 5098 have been introduced in the Michigan Legislature to change the Revised School Code to identify and intervene with children that struggle to learn to read, many of which have the characteristics of dyslexia. The bills will require training for teachers about reading instruction grounded in the science of reading and knowledge about the characteristics and accommodations for students with dyslexia. The bills also require teacher preparation programs to include instruction about the science of reading. I ask that you support these bills. Teachers deserve to be highly trained so they may use effective instruction and interventions to help ALL students across Michigan become proficient readers. Only then will learning to read be possible for ALL students so they may reach their full potential academically and personally.
Michigan Senate, Education Committee
Michigan House of Representatives, Education Committee
I have been tutoring dyslexic students for over 30 years. My extensive training in structured literacy has been essential for my work. I have seen child after child make steady, strong reading (and spelling) progress. These are students who could not learn to read using the methods taught in their classrooms. All the children I’ve worked with have benefited, most were able to accomplish grade level reading in a relatively brief period of time. These children would not have become readers without structured literacy, their lives were profoundly changed by this approach.