The "No Child Left Behind Act" has emphasized reading to the detriment of our children’s education.
I have recently been working with a few families whose children have reading disabilities. They are struggling to keep up with their non-disabled peers in all their school subjects, sometime students are several years behind their grade level. These are bright kids, who do not read well.
They have the ability to learn, just not by reading books; But, because they cannot read, they are failing history, physical and social sciences, mathematics, literature, and other classes. It is a ridiculous failure of our educational system that leads children with disabilities to drop out of school and become part of the under classes.
What is the purpose of teaching history? Is it to read text, or to learn the subject matter? What is the purpose of teaching classic literature? Is it to read the words, or understand the beautiful language and to take the journey along with the author? Social sciences help students learn about human interactions; should that information belong to only children who read?
Obviously, if a child can learn to read, he/she should learn to read; do it in a reading class. If a student is having difficulty reading, we should be compensating that disability in all other classes, without exception.
The truth is some people will never learn to read, despite chapter one reading programs, literacy or other training. For them, it is imperative we provide material in an alternate format accessible to them. Why educators are so reluctant to support learning, is just beyond any logical reasoning.
The National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) guides the production and electronic distribution of digital versions of textbooks and other instructional materials to accessible formats.
Here's what they have to say about their very important work:
The Need for Flexible Alternatives to Print
For many students with disabilities, the limitations of print technology raise barriers to access, and therefore to learning.
For students who cannot see the words or images on a page, cannot hold a book or turn its pages, cannot decode the text or cannot comprehend the syntax that supports the written word may each experience different challenges, and they may each require different supports to extract meaning from information that is "book bound." For each of them, however, there is a common barrier - the centuries-old fixed format of the printed book...
Very few students with disabilities presently have access to the accessible books they need. There are several reasons for that. In some cases, the problem is technical - schools do not have the technology they need to properly provide accessible versions to students, even if they had such versions. In other cases, the problem is ignorance - many teachers and schools do not understand the issue of access or the potential solutions that are available.
But for many students the problem is a frustrating distribution system; students can't get the accessible materials they need in a timely fashion. Present policies and procedures for disseminating accessible materials are archaic and inefficient, raising barriers rather than opportunities.
If knowledge is power, why are educators trying to keep children with disabilities powerless?