Learn the facts, take action, make a difference
Libby is a freshman at West High School in Madison and is pursuing her Girl Scout Silver Award - the highest honor a Girl Scout Cadette can achieve. Focusing on an issue they care about, the project asks youth to learn the facts and take action to make a difference, while also learning skills that will help them in the future.
Dyslexia awareness is something that is very close to Libby’s heart, and ours as well. Each October for the last five years, community engagement librarian Abby Ryan has hosted dyslexia awareness events in Madison Public Libraries as part of a partnership with the Children’s Dyslexia Center of Madison. The Children’s Dyslexia Center is a local branch of a national nonprofit with the mission of spreading awareness of Dyslexia, training tutors and providing free tutoring for children with dyslexia like Libby.
For Abby, a librarian with an early literacy and family engagement focus, spreading awareness of dyslexia is a shared family passion. Her mother, aunt, and sister have worked with the Children’s Dyslexia Center and are all tutors. They have supported Abby’s work and the events over the years.
“For me, hosting the events serves a double purpose,” Abby told us. “We want to spread community awareness, but also to create a welcoming space for those children and their families who are already learning with dyslexia. For a lot of those children (and adults!), our building could be an intimidating place full of books they might have difficulty reading. I can imagine the library might be the last place they want to go. But I want to show them this is their library. We see you, you belong here, and we have resources that reflect your experience.”
Abby has also created an informational flyer, a booklist, and storytime to both support and create awareness of dyslexia as well as point people to resources in the library collection. “I can’t overstate that listening to audiobooks is "reading with your ears" and is a great strategy to keep someone with dyslexia learning and enjoying the power of storytelling."
The impact of Abby’s work can be felt by a growing number of people, as the event has nearly 50 people attending each year. In 2018, the event provided a platform for local author Dr. Shawn Anthony Robinson to share his book Dr. Dyslexia Dude at Goodman South Madison Library and Leopold Elementary school as part of the Wisconsin Book Festival. And beyond Madison, Door County Public Library is following Abby’s lead, reaching out for guidance in hosting their first Dyslexia Awareness month in 2019.
In 2019, Madison Public Library’s event was the largest it has ever been and included several “simulations” designed to help people who don’t have dyslexia understand the frustrations and self doubt that can be experienced - like holding a pencil in their non dominant hand and trying to write while looking at the passage through a mirror, dramatically adjusting their perception or attempting to read a passage where more and more keywords are progressively represented by only symbols.
“It was very well received and impactful for the adults and parents in the room,” Abby told us. “It’s not meant to shame or say ’this is exactly what dyslexic learners experience, but to add perspective and help them really understand how challenging learning with dyslexia can be.”
One of those attendees was Libby Scanlon. She was invited to an event at the library by her tutor Brigid, and Libby ended up attending several different events. When it came time for Libby to choose a 7th grade research project, she thought about her experiences and the awareness events and chose dyslexia.
“When I was in middle school, I started to learn what an IEP (Individual Education Plan) was. I started realizing that I got specialized help in the classroom and other kids didn’t.” Libby told us, “I chose to do the 7th grade essay project about dyslexia and I learned so much about it and wanted to share about it - just because you have dyslexia, you’re still a human, you just learn differently.”
When Libby was looking for an issue she cared about for her Girl Scout Silver Award, dyslexia awareness was at the top of her list, and what better way to share her research and message than through her public library that encouraged awareness and inclusion!
With a team of friends and family who lent their voices to the project, and support from her reading tutor, middle school case manager and tutors from the Children’s Dyslexia Center, Libby researched, wrote, and produced an informative video for others to learn about dyslexia.
“When Libby reached out to share about her video, I was delighted,” Abby told us. “With the pandemic, we have not been able to host an event this year, but what better way to do it virtually than with the voice of one of our young people!”
“I really hope that my video informs people that kids who need extra help in the classroom aren’t weird - they are just trying to get the help they need to understand what the teacher is trying to say because they learn differently,” Libby told us. “I would have other kids ask me ‘why do you get pulled out of the class’ and I didn’t want to have to tell people that I have a learning disability. I didn’t always want to talk about it. I want there to be resources for people to understand dyslexia and other learning differences on their own. I want our differences to be celebrated.”
Since attending that first library dyslexia event, Libby has always wanted to share her story with the library during Dyslexia Awareness Month. In addition to the library, she has shared her video with the Children’s Dyslexia Center, the Madison School Board, West High School administration, and others. Libby will finalize her Silver Award paperwork in November and receive her Silver Award from Badgerland Girl Scout Council in December.
Thank you so much for educating and sharing with us Libby! We’re excited we can help grow your impact around dyslexia awareness.