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How Our Community is Helping turn kids into Readers

an article from Willamette Kids and Family Magazine

If you were to look at the statistics alone, for Oregon children and reading benchmarks, you might feel a bit disheartened.  Indeed, the numbers are somewhat alarming but there is much being done to help our children become better readers, more successful students and literate adults.  

First, the numbers- SMART Reading, a local nonprofit, reports that state test scores released by the Oregon Department of Education show that 54% of third-graders statewide tested below reading benchmarks for the 2018-2019 school year.

Chris Otis, Executive Director of SMART, states, “This means over half our state’s third-graders are four times less likely to graduate from high school than their reading-proficient peers. Low literacy rates don’t just hurt individual kids; they hurt us all. “

How does that affect Oregon as a whole?  He continues, “This impacts the future health and prosperity of Oregon. It adds strain on social and health services, impedes our economic growth, and weakens our workforce. Therefore, it is our collective responsibility to come together and solve this for Oregon children.”

Sitting down with local reading advocates and professionals, we discussed in depth how we can work to correct this situation, and what we can do for our children and our neighbor’s children   as parents and community members. 

Joining me are  Micheal Finlay- Senior Program Manager from SMART Reading, and Lynn Brown, M.Ed, director of operations for the newly opened Willamette Valley Dyslexia Center in Salem.  

The outline for this meeting is based around a “can-do” attitude of focusing on solutions, and less on finger-pointing.  Regardless of “Why” our children are at risk, it is our goal to discuss an action plan on “How” we can make a difference and raise up great readers individually, and as a community.

Both professionals agree that first, we need to model the behavior we are seeking.  


It’s easy in this day and age to get caught up in technology, but by putting it aside to spend some quality time reading with our  kids- we not only give them the closeness and attention they seek, we also model good reading habits and instill joyful feelings associated with reading.  

Lynn suggests that interest trumps ability, and that letting your child choose their own book can lead to success.  It’s not even so much about what they read, as SMART is quick to point out: If your kiddo enjoys kid’s magazines, comic books, or even kid-friendly cookbooks, those count, too!  

SMART teaches that setting time aside to read enjoyable books with your children is imperative.  They also suggest to have books on hand during trips and errands – keep a stash in the car or in a backpack so they’re always within reach.

By spending time enjoying books with your child, you can also determine if they are struggling more than usual while learning to read.  According to her research,  Lynn reports that dyslexia affects 1 in 5 students, and that while dyslexia typically runs in families, it can affect anyone.  Great progress is being made in the diagnosis and treatment of dyslexia, so don’t lose hope!

Signs that your child may be struggling with reading may include: trouble learning letter names and remembering the sounds they make, confusing letters that look similar and letters with similar sounds, or struggling to read familiar words especially if there aren’t pictures, to name a few.

If you suspect that your child may need intervention, the sooner you act on it, the better.  Lynn suggests that you ask their teacher about supports in school.  Get help from the community, hire a private tutor, and/or participate in public library programs.

For some kids, reading can seem like a chore, and struggling to read can often lead to a lack of confidence. By celebrating small successes, being patient, and encouraging your child to keep going, your child knows he or she has full support from you, and is more likely to continue trying.

How important is reading?  As the foundation to learning, a child who reads well is better situated to excel in academics such as math, science and history.  Better reading means better all-around school success.  Excelling in school is the perfect springboard to build self-confidence to succeed in all areas of their future.

In conclusion, supporting our children’s reading has far-reaching benefits that include combating poverty, homelessness and joblessness.  Becoming better readers instills confidence, increases literacy skills, and promotes a love of reading which can reduce the negative ripple effects caused by illiteracy for years to come. 

Meet your Round Table hosts:

Lynn Brown: 

Lynn is the Director of Operations at Willamette Valley Dyslexia Center in Salem. She has a Master of Education from Arizona State University Education Leadership program, and a 30 hour Orton-Gillingham Multi-Sensory Reading Instruction Certificate from IMSE. She recently left public Special Education teaching for private reading tutoring, specializing in kids with dyslexia.  Lynn lives with her husband and dyslexic daughter; for fun they like to kayak and camp around the PNW.

Michael Finlay: 

Michael is the Senior Program Manager for SMART Reading’s Northwest Office based in Salem.  He is a graduate of Western Oregon University and worked at the Gilbert House Children’s Museum before joining SMART Reading in 2013.  Michael is also a Parent Educator in the Salem-area and spends his free time with his wife and two young children. 

Since 1992, SMART Reading has been pairing adult volunteers with children to provide reading support and books to keep. SMART Reading volunteers read one-on-one with students weekly during the school year, modeling a love of reading and building children’s reading skills and self-confidence in a positive, child-guided environment.

To Volunteer, donate or attend an event, please visit their website at www.

What Teachers Can Do Now to Support Struggling Readers

February 8 2020

10 steps to supporting struggling readers, that won't break our bank or take up your whole prep.

A Peek inside WVDC’s book club for Kids

November 17, 2019

During our last book club session we read the first book from The Unicorn Rescue Society!  The kids went on a fun adventure into the New Jersey woods, discovered a dragon, and had to find a way to get it back to school!  We did fun crafts, include page eaters, and a dragon habitat! 
Be on the lookout for our next edition of WVDC’s Book Club for Kids.

We are listed in the directory! 


WVDC is excited to be listed in the International Dyslexia Assoc. providers directory!  

Press Release




Willamette Valley Dyslexia Center

Lynn Brown


Willamette Valley Dyslexia Center Announces Launch

Salem, Oregon – Willamette Valley Dyslexia Center (WVDC) is excited to announce its official launch August of this year. Based in Salem, Oregon, WVDC provides tutoring for students with Dyslexia and learning disabilities using a structured literacy program that will help children who are struggling to read.

WVDC also provides a comprehensive screening for Dyslexia and other reading learning disabilities in order to meet the needs of each student as an individual.  Our screening process includes testing session for identification of skill deficiency, a written report, goal setting, and a plan timeline. Using a structured literacy approach, WVDC can help struggling readers make gains in understanding written words.  These gains will impact their reading functionality and achieve a sustained life-long reading upon completion of the program.

In 2003, the National Center for Education Statistics found that 10% of Oregonians remain below basic literacy standards into adulthood; in Marion County, it is estimated to be closer to 15% of adults. WVDC can work with your local public or private school, district, homeschool, or as a tutoring service to provide early intervention for struggling readers.  Contact WVDC ( for more information on ways to support your children.