February 16, 2018

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

Emily Johansson & Laura Rogers

Emily Johansson


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


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



Laura Rogers


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


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


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

Photo by Steven Olexa, Richland Library


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.

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  4. Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media, per our Terms of Use.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind