As a volunteer with the Georgia Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, I was invited to an Atlanta film premiere at The Carter Center last week. The invitee list didn’t include Hollywood starlets or the Georgia film industry elite. Those invited to this film preview hosted by HBO in partnership with The Schenck School and our IDA branch included mostly parents, teachers, psychologists, legislators and key leaders from the Georgia Board of Education.
The documentary, “The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia,” written and directed by James Redford is an honest, intelligent and even humorous look at dyslexia. The film follows Redford’s son, Dylan, his early struggles to read and efforts to attend a highly competitive university. Among others it also features well-known and highly successful dyslexics, Gavin Newsome, David Boies, Sir Richard Branson and Charles Schwab.
Films about dyslexia often focus on the negative. You’ll learn all about kids who struggled with self-esteem, who thought they were intellectually inferior, who squeaked through school and obtained a diploma if they were lucky.
This film is filled with hope. As Redford put it, “had I seen this movie when Dylan was functionally illiterate in fourth grade, I would have been spared an extraordinary amount of anxiety about the future.”
Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywitz, of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, explain the neuroscience behind dyslexia as well as the critical thinking skills and creativity dyslexics possess. Redford notes, “It would be heartbreaking if your formative opinion of your abilities and intelligence is solely shaped by a struggle to read.”
Knowing as many as one in five children are dyslexic, I took a look at my own Gwinnett county. With 164,694 students, that means as many as 32,000 students could be dyslexic.
You’d expect more of the people who could effect change to show up to see this film. Out of those invited, no one from the governor’s office attended. No one from the Georgia Board of Education showed up.
We can keep touting our school’s successes, but a third of Georgia students still fail to finish high school.
We may not be able to repair every reason a child struggles in school, but the tools exist to help dyslexic students learn to read.
We need all teachers trained to spot the warning signs and we need our schools to have the proper remediation available. Ask the parents, teachers and psychologists who did fill up the theatre last week. They’ll tell you how desperately these kids want to learn to read.
To learn more about dyslexia catch this documentary on HBO Monday, Oct. 29 and visit www.thebigpicturemovie.com or www.idaga.org.
Karen Huppertz has lived in Gwinnett County for 13 years. You can reach her at email@example.com.