By Kelly Werthmann


JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – A Jefferson County mom is creating a new school to help thousands of students with dyslexia across the metro area.

“Our goal is to realize the extraordinary abilities of dyslexics,” Jill France, founder of READ Academy, said. “Instead of focusing on their weaknesses, which is really what we do in schools today with these one-on-one or small group interventions. We’re actually going to focus on their strengths.”

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Hence how the Academy got its name – Realizing the Extraordinary Abilities of Dyslexics. Jill came up with the idea for the school after watching her 10-year-old daughter struggle in school.

“I have watched her slowly lose her self-confidence and her love of learning,” Jill said of her daughter, Lainey. “She is very bright and she should excel in school and she’s not. So, I wanted to create a place for her where she would feel as successful as she should.”

(credit: CBS)

Lainey told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann she loves going to school, but has a difficult time reading.

“It’s kind of hard because you can’t really pronounce words that well and it’s hard to sound them out,” Lainey said of having dyslexia. “Once you can’t read then it goes on to math and all these other stuff. Then it’s not fun at school anymore and it’s really challenging.”

One in five students has a language-based learning disability and dyslexia is the most common. That means, Jill explained, as many as 100,000 students in the Denver metro area deal with dyslexia. She knows teachers do the best they can to help students like Lainey, but Jill said their strategies just aren’t working.

“They’re reading to learn. Dyslexics struggle with reading,” she said. “It’s actually a language processing disorder. They need to be taught a different way.”

That’s where READ Academy really stands out, Jill added. Teachers specially trained to work with dyslexics would guide students through their curriculum using an alternative approach.

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“They’re not going to have to sit and read a science book,” Jill explained. “We’re going to give them access to the science content through other sensories — visual, tactile, auditory. They’re not going to have to read it.”

Along with READ Academy’s co-founder, Jill is sharing her idea and hopes for the unique school with interested families. At a town hall last week, more than a dozen parents brought their kids to learn how the program would work.

“I think families are kind of relieved to have an option,” Jill said. “Like looking forward to the option that, ‘Wow, ­­we’re going to have a partner in this.’”

(credit: CBS)

Right now, READ Academy is still in the planning stages. Jill explained it would cater to 6th to 12th grade students, perhaps as a “school within in a school.” She is working with school districts in the region, but said READ may become a charter school.

“Ideally we want to be inside existing schools,” she said. “Inside a high school and feeding junior high school, and a part of the feeding elementary schools so that families can stay together. So if you have one family member who is dyslexic and one who’s not, your kids could still stay in the same school.”

Jill added private donations from individuals and organizations are funding READ Academy, as well as the training teachers would receive ahead of the school’s opening. The hope is to have READ Academy up and running by the 2020-2021 school year.

LINK: READ Academy

Kelly Werthmann

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