Christine Compton had tried everything to help her daughter’s struggle with dyslexia, but nothing seemed to help.
Her daughter was a bright student with good grades, but basic reading and spelling homework involved hours of frustration — leading the girl to fake her way through some classes without really comprehending.
“Well-intentioned teachers kept saying, ‘it will be OK. One day it will just be like flipping a switch,’” Compton said. “She had us fooled. She was such a good student, we thought she couldn’t be dyslexic. She would have good days where she would read aloud just fine, but we found out later she had just memorized the book. She’s that bright — she tricked us.”
After several failed attempts at other programs, Compton found the Appalachian Reading Center, Inc. — a nonprofit tutoring center in South Charleston now celebrating its 10-year anniversary.
The center helps struggling readers of all ages and is the only program in West Virginia recognized by the International Dyslexia Association.
Now Compton’s daughter is in high school, and after spending more than two years in the program, takes Advanced Placement courses and is reading on grade level.
“It’s been a couple of years and I still have a hard time talking about it without crying,” Compton said. “Pretty quickly, we were able to see an improvement. I honestly don’t know where she would be without that intervention.”
“They’re just an incredible group of people. They’re compassionate and have a true desire to help every child,” she said. “It’s truly a mission of passion. It’s just remarkable.”
One of those people on a mission is Co-Director Lori Dubrawka, who started the Reading Center after she began tutoring in public schools in West Virginia and realized no one knew about the Orton-Gillingham method of reading instruction — considered the gold standard for teaching dyslexic students.
Dubrawka, who is certified in the unique reading instruction method, which focuses on a multi-sensory approach to language, was soon in demand.
“The demand was overwhelming because there aren’t enough trained people in West Virginia to work with dyslexic students,” Dubrawka said.
She and Jennifer Carriger started the center in 2004 and have since helped more than 450 students, and currently have a waiting list.
Between 15 and 20 percent of the population has a language-based learning disability such as Dyslexia, according to the International Dyslexia Association.
“We’ve come a long way nationally talking about Dyslexia, much more than we have in the past, and in West Virginia we’re making strides too because we’re using the term more, and that’s one of our main goals,” Dubrawka said.
The Reading Center works hard to fundraise year-round so that it never has to turn a student away, regardless of income. The center offers varying partial scholarships for students who need it.
Thanks to local organizations, like the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, the Center is able to provide extensive and specialized reading support to any student who needs it.
Most recently, thanks to help from the GKVF, the center was able to provide nearly 30 students with a surplus of audio books — an important element in a dyslexic student’s education.
“We believe a lot of times, kids in school who don’t read well are given baby stuff, but they’re intelligent and ready for sophisticated, beautiful, lyrical language — but never get any of it because they can’t read it,” Dubrawka said. “People learn in lots of ways, and dyslexic students are often punished because they can’t read the material, and they don’t get the learning materials they deserve.”
For more information, visit www.appalachianreading.org or call 304-744-8188.
Reach Mackenzie Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 304-348-4814.