In 1988, my life was copasetic. It was business as usual until I received an urgent phone call from my brother. Frantically he said, “Lee, the school that I work for tested me and they say I’m dyslexic. Lee, that’s why I had a difficult time reading and not doing well in school. Lee, there are a lot of kids in public schools that can’t read and they have what I have. Lee, you got to do something!” I was 28 years old and my brother Sam was 27. Even though we were 13 months a part, I was his big brother. In Sam’s eyes, there was nothing his big brother couldn’t do. On several occasions, Sam watched me defend him against the school’s so called bullies. Sometimes I was the victor and other times we both ended up in the open field sewer landing on top of each other.
When Sam made that urgent call to me, I knew right away I could not disappoint him. I knew at that moment God had a higher calling for me. I had a new vision. I had a new mission-eradicating illiteracy. I immediately switched from the computer industry to education. This wasn’t just regular education, it was a specialty for individuals with dyslexia, which can fall under Special Education. Dyslexia is a word that most people have never heard of or just don’t care about because it sounds like a disease. Dyslexia doesn’t discriminate and up to 20% of our population can’t read. Regardless of what it sounded like at that moment, Sam was diagnosed as dyslexic, and I had to learn all that I could about this learning disorder. Off to the races. I was about getting educated and trained so that I could help children like my brother before they became adults.
Winston Churchill once said “occasionally a man will stumble over the truth but most men will pick themselves up and hurry on as if nothing had happened.” It was during this time that being like other men was not an option, it was a necessity; therefore, I became a man on a mission for God. Fredrick Douglass says African Americans “will never be free until they learn to read.” Why is it that 2 out of 3 African-American males in prison can’t read despite the fact that they went to school every day in kindergarten, 1st grade and 2nd grade. Research shows that the first three years when a student learns to read, then they read to learn. Oftentimes, if a person never learns to read then most likely they will educate themselves in informal learning such as street knowledge, which is a place where they are accepted and not ridiculed or embarrassed publicly.
In my book titled Why Sammy Still Can’t Read, it depicts 30 years of training as a Certified Academic Language Therapist and a Licensed Dyslexic Therapist, which propelled me to declare war on illiteracy focusing on dyslexia worldwide. As the CEO of a public charter school designed for children with dyslexia, I was able to address dyslexia and illiteracy at the same time teaching thousands of children. Dyslexia is not just seeing things backwards. In fact, there are 70 symptoms of dyslexia and it is usually coupled with other disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). In my book you will discover many ways dyslexia manifest itself and some of the smartest people who are dyslexic such some former United States Presidents, celebrities, professional athletes, inventors, artist, entertainers, and world leaders.
Illiteracy, no matter what the underlining cause whether dyslexic, poverty or any other extenuating circumstance, is a crisis. We must see this as a national crisis; therefore, drastic measures must be taken immediately to eradicate illiteracy!