We recently learned about the work of the New Jersey Reading Disabilities Task Force from Kathy Stratton, the mother of a Bookshare member. Appointed by the governor, this 11-member task force is researching the services available to students who struggle with reading to find out if the state is meeting the needs of its students with reading disabilities.
On April 30, the Task Force held a public hearing to gather testimony; over 130 attended and 60 spoke.
In Kathy’s words, “The theme was clear and consistent – schools are not meeting the needs of students who struggle with reading. Parent after parent spoke with passion about the time, and emotional, educational, and financial toll these struggles have taken on their families. The educators who spoke acknowledged that they and their colleagues are often poorly trained to meet the needs of dyslexic students.”
She urged the commission to consider that “in addition to teaching students to learn to read, it is equally important to provide struggling readers with opportunities to read to learn.”
She emphasized the value of accessible instructional material to enable struggling readers to keep up with their classmates and talked about the Bookshare celebration in DC, at which Senator Harkin (IA-D) said, “100% of Iowa’s school districts have Bookshare memberships.”
Kathy urged the task force to provide information about the importance of accessible books in their report to the Governor and noted that 25% of qualified students in NJ are members in comparison to 100% of districts in IA. In conclusion, she said, “I hope that someday soon I can report to Senator Harkin that 100% of schools in NJ have an organizational membership to Bookshare too.”
Her son, the Bookshare member, intends to contribute written testimony to the Task Force.
The testimony from the hearing will be considered by the task force as it compiles information for a report to the governor of New Jersey in July.
The Bookshare team applauds the Task Force for its efforts, as well as Kathy for her dedication, and looks forward to a positive outcome for all students with print disabilities in New Jersey!