By Mindy Binderman,
Executive Director, GEEARS: The Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students
Some of my fondest early childhood memories are of staring out the window in my family’s living room with my father and making up stories together about the people in the cars driving past our house. One of my favorite pictures of the two of us together captures me sitting on his lap with a book in my hands.
When I was young, my father talked to me, engaged me in story telling about the world around me, and made up silly songs to pass the time on long car rides. He talked to me about current events and history. In short, he showered me with huge doses of what we in Georgia call “language nutrition.”
My father ran a business, graduated college and was a wonderful story teller –– but he couldn’t read. When I was a bit older, I realized how much he stumbled and ad libbed when reading easy children’s books to me. When I was old enough to go to sleep away camp, I looked forward to the sweet notes he sent but cringed at the misspelled words. My father, who passed away almost 35 years ago, almost certainly had an undiagnosed learning disability, and it breaks my heart to remember his stories of how school was difficult and how his teachers and parents were impatient.
His granddaughter was much luckier.
My husband and I sent our beautiful curly-haired middle child off to pre-k full of hopes for her future. At age 4, she had a superior vocabulary and a fun personality. She inherited her grandfather’s warmth and his talent for making up silly songs. She easily remembered details of stories and engaged in conversations with adults and peers.
But, my daughter wouldn’t be reading at grade level today without a pre-k teacher and a kindergarten teacher who noticed that she was not recognizing words and sounds at a rate that would be otherwise expected in a child of her intelligence level. She was able to mask her early challenges so well that my husband and I would have assumed that all was ok if not for patient and loving teachers who were trained to identify learning differences.
Because of these skilled teachers, our daughter’s dyslexia was identified early and she was able to receive the interventions she needed. After three years at the Atlanta Speech School, she is now a successful middle school student who loves to read and excels in school. She still has challenges but she has the tools to address her learning needs and advocate for herself.
My daughter inherited her grandfather’s kindness, sense of humor and intelligence- she also inherited his dyslexia. Thanks to a high quality early education program and its’ teachers who were trained to identify early warning signs, when my daughter puts her own children on her lap to read them a book, she will be able to read fluently and share not only her own stories but the words on the page.
GEEARS: The Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students (GEEARS) was established to ensure that every child in Georgia enters school prepared to succeed and on a path to read to learn by 2020. Our mission is to inspire and provide leadership for a statewide movement on quality early learning and healthy development for children ages birth to five. We work across the state of Georgia to align and mobilize key stakeholders in the business, civic, and legislative communities as well to engage providers, parents, and other advocacy organizations for collective impact. In addition, we create statewide public awareness of the importance of high quality early education through a campaign strategy that includes paid, earned, and social media. Our policy agenda includes a focus on funding and investments, quality improvements and systems change through innovation, and access and affordability of health care and high quality programs.