December 10, 2017

Emily Johansson & Laura Rogers | Movers & Shakers 2017 – Change Agents

Emily Johansson & Laura Rogers

Emily Johansson

CURRENT POSITION

Children’s Library Associate, Richland Library, Columbia, SC

DEGREE

English Education, Ball State University, Muncie, IN, 2004

FOLLOW

richlandlibrary.com/user/151

Laura Rogers

CURRENT POSITION

Children’s Library Associate, Richland Library, Columbia, SC

DEGREE

Coursework in General Education and Literature, Midlands Technical College, Columbia, SC, 1995–98

FOLLOW

@mslaurarogers (Twitter); richlandlibrary.com/user/97

Photo by Steven Olexa, Richland Library

MS_logo_300x81

Empowering Dyslexic Learners

Richland Library’s Laura Rogers remembers a morning several years ago when her then young son was struggling to read the words on a cereal box: “He sighed deeply and put his head in his hands as he said, ‘I wish I could just read what that says!’ ”

After he was diagnosed with dyslexia, Rogers struggled to find accurate resources about the condition. “I thought that it was crazy that I worked in a library and answered reference questions all the time but still had so much trouble finding real answers about dyslexia,” she says. “The idea for creating a special collection for others in my situation began to blossom.”

She and her colleague Emily Johansson began collaborating. In 2014, with $1,000 in seed money from the book budget, the two children’s library associates created the Reading Studio, a space dedicated to dyslexic learners, at the main branch of the Richland Library. Their goal was not only to help kids with dyslexia improve their reading skills but to teach teachers and parents how to help them, too.

They expanded the collection to include sound-out chapter books, Recipe for Reading workbooks, nonfiction audiobooks, instructional DVDs, literacy games, and titles such as Ben Foss’s The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan. They added multisensory teaching materials: magnetic poetry sets, textured alphabet touch and trace letters, and bumpy handwriting sheets. For the 11 other Richland Library locations, they created emerging reader kits, which families can check out, and shared what they’d learned with their colleagues.

They also began teaching a class for parents and teachers, Teach Your Child To Read. They met with children and parents in the Reading Studio by appointment and offered one-on-one guidance. Since 2014, the class has served more than 650 people.

Their own education as reading specialists is ongoing, Johansson says. They attend training on evidence-based reading instruction, host programs based on that training, and maintain a collection of quality multisensory teaching methods. They also took classes at the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators, which focuses on language-related learning issues.

“We love our job,” says Johansson. “I mean really love our job, and we work hard because we are passionate about putting books in the hands of children. [W]e pride ourselves on being early literacy experts and advocates.”

Rogers says, “My dream is to keep changing the future of these children, to end the stigma of dyslexia, to make ‘ear-reading’ [reading an audiobook] a part of every teacher’s vocabulary, to support multisensory reading instruction for our entire community of dyslexic readers, and to increase understanding of neurodiversity.”

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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