The Parent Grassroots Movement

Below ares some excerpts from the article article “The Parent Grassroots Movement” which appeared in the December 2015 issue of Perspectives on Language and Literacy, an official publication of the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) and is published quarterly free of charge to IDA members.   To read the entire article, please consider joining the IDA to gain access to this entire issue as well as previous issues.  The IDA has several membership options ranging in yearly price from $45 (parent, teacher), $60 (senior, retired), $80 (individual), and $95 (professional).

It’s happening all over the United States—frustrated parents of children who struggle to read are connecting. We are sharing our children’s stories not only with each other, but also with policymakers at every level. Admittedly, our stories are always amazingly similar, but that’s what brings us together and makes lobbying for dyslexia policies, such as statewide definitions or mandated screenings, strategically viable. At the root of the problem, there are simply too many of us with similar stories to be ignored. Our children are the ones who are falling through the cracks of both public, and oftentimes private, education. We are the ones who are told “read with your child more,” “he’ll grow out of it,” or a whole host of other tiresome recommendations that just serve to delay addressing our children’s needs. We feel the heartbreak when our third graders stumble over basic leveled readers, and we are the ones who worry for their future. We agonize over balancing the financial and emotional burdens placed on our families when our middle school sons and daughters are shutting down academically and socially, and we know that we need to act quickly. We are bound together in this turmoil by an altruistic camaraderie—a breeding ground for grassroots movements like Decoding Dyslexia.

Parents have proven that passion and persistence can help us make significant progress down the grassroots advocacy path, but we also recognize the importance of professional connections. We must actively collaborate to tie the passion of our stories to the current science, practices, and research. Together, parents and professionals will be impermeable, and we will make a powerful impact. Neither of us can do it alone. Parents may know in their hearts things need to change, but we need the science to back up those claims. Researchers can show lawmakers the science, but we also need parents to say, “I live this daily, please help.” We are much stronger together than we will ever be alone.

These changes do not happen overnight. A lot of strategy and planning goes into grassroots organizing. Although some of the early steps may seem small, they are vital. Building a network of engaged stakeholders to a size that carries weight and helps distribute the workload across many volunteers, instead of an overworked few, takes planning. Knowing how to take advantage of strategic opportunities, without sending the movement off in too many directions, takes patience and restraint. Finding the right community partners, who are willing to contribute and support the mission, while allowing your movement to maintain its autonomy, can be challenging. However, it’s all worth it. Change is hard. Change takes time. These types of collaborative interactions culminate in collective impact.

All of this comes back to our children. Our love for them and concern for their well-being is what sparked this movement for policy change. Parents should not have to fight so hard for an appropriate education for a child who has dyslexia. And those of us actively involved at the grassroots level know that we are engaged not only for our own families but for all children. The science is there. We know how to teach these children. It’s time to come together to enact true change.  Personal stories and social media interaction are integral. Lawmakers, departments of education, and institutions of higher education are often the gatekeepers, and personal stories from parents are the key to opening that door and unlocking our children’s potential. Our stories along with the research and expertise of our partners can move mountains. It’s time to share these messages with the world.

Please reference the links below to see the first few pages of the December 2015 issue:

Cover

Index

Leadership

Seeds of Change