California Needs Universal Screening Now

With an unprecedented budget surplus, California can implement required universal screening and support struggling readers early.

Reading is the key to education. Learners need to read in order to succeed in all subjects from math to art history. It is the singular skill that unlocks success in our school system. Unfortunately, California’s record on reading achievement falls short of the mark.

The California Reading Coalition reports that,“half of California’s students do not read at grade level. What’s worse, among low-income students of color, over 65% read below grade level.” These numbers are stunning and even more so when we have evidence that early intervention can change reading outcomes. Multiple studies suggest that if help is provided before the end of first grade, 90% of children with reading difficulties will achieve grade level reading abilities. We need a systematic plan to catch reading challenges early.

States Requiring Screening (Blue)

Source: National Center on Improving Literacy

Thirty-nine states have recognized the importance of early reading intervention and have adopted universal screening policies. Surprisingly, California is not one of these states. Studies have found that the number of students requiring special education can be reduced by up to 70% when early identification and prevention programs are put in place. Reducing students in special education can also create significant cost savings over time as it typically costs 3x more to serve a student in special education than in general education. 

We have reached a unique moment in time and have the opportunity to fix this. Our Governor, Gavin Newsom, has dyslexia and understands this issue personally. In addition, he has a record-breaking 2022-2023 $286.4 billion budget this year. The cost to require universal screening for risk of dyslexia would be in the low tens of millions of dollars annually. Given the wealth of money available, this would be a very small investment. Governor Newsom can include required K-2 universal screening for risk of dyslexia in his budget this year. Finding kids we know will struggle to learn to read is the first step in setting their course for future success. This should be an investment we can all get behind.

Want to see K-2 universal screening for reading risk including risk of dyslexia become a requirement in California?  Contact your state legislator and let them know how important this issue is to you and our community.

Warriors’ Gary Payton II Inspires Youth with Dyslexia

(Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

The NBA player shares his own story, which underscores the need for universal screening for early readers in California.

You may know Gary Payton II (aka GPII) for his incredible moves on the basketball court, but he recently showed a group of kids with dyslexia that courage can also be found in the reading of books. In a recent Read to Achieve Reading Rally sponsored by the Golden State Warriors, Ross Stores and Decoding Dyslexia CA, Payton II demonstrated both his perseverance and bravery in reading a book about dyslexia to a live audience of kids with dyslexia and their families.

Dyslexia is an often misunderstood and under-diagnosed learning difference that makes the complex process of reading much more challenging. Researchers at the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity estimate that it potentially impacts 20% of the population.  Payton II’s story, like many kids with dyslexia, is one of a bright child who doesn’t understand why they can’t read with ease like other kids.

The Reading Rally featured GPII reading from the graphic novel, Doctor Dyslexia Dude, by Dr. Shawn and Inshirah Robinson, illustrated by Brandon Hadnot.  The story details many of the challenging experiences kids with dyslexia face in school and with their peers.  Payton II shared his own message with the kids telling them, “don’t ever give up”, “don’t be afraid to ask for help”, and “get it done.”  His openness and willingness to read aloud had an impact on both dyslexic kids and their families:

The best thing to me was hearing GPII tell of his own personal struggles with having dyslexia and how he faced those challenges. –Jayden, age 11

-My boys really enjoyed hearing Gary Payton II read aloud. To see someone they idolize show a vulnerable side was very empowering for my dyslexic son, and very eye-opening for my older non-dyslexic 16 yr. old son. They were both riveted and engaged.- Jennifer

 –I appreciate you normalizing dyslexia for my son. It was so important for him to see a face like his own, as he has been struggling to come to terms with his dyslexiaLenore

 –It is important for kids with dyslexia to have role models, so they can see that people with dyslexia get to a place where they are not struggling and get to a place where they are successful.Megan

(Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

Payton’s dedication to supporting kids with dyslexia did not end with the Reading Rally.  He personally donated tickets to several upcoming Warriors’ games to kids with dyslexia and their families. One lucky recipient of the tickets, Jayden and his grandparents, brought two friends with dyslexia to a recent game against the Detroit Pistons. The kids not only got to watch an NBA basketball game and spend time with GPII before the game, but for them it went deeper and it was “encouraging to know that GPII has achieved so much in his life already.”

Decoding Dyslexia CA (DDCA) understands the inspirational impact that positive role models such as GPII can have on our kids with dyslexia. Lori DePole, Co-State Director of DDCA, shared, “Listening to an NBA superstar share his struggles with reading and school due to his dyslexia shows our kids that dyslexia does not define you. Gary Payton II is one of only three NBA players that have publicly spoken out about their dyslexia. It is our hope that other athletes with dyslexia will share their story and help raise dyslexia awareness.”  DDCA looks forward to working together with GPII and the Golden State Warriors in the future. Go Warriors!