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From Tumbleweeds Fall 2018: Dyslexia is my Superpower

From Tumbleweeds Fall 2018
Dyslexia is my Superpower:  Dyslexia Justice League
By Amy Miller

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“My superhero, White Eagle, is an 8-year-old boy who wants to learn to read, but he doesn’t know that he’s dyslexic. If he does not succeed, he will get bullied by almost everybody in the school.”

Dyslexia Justice League is a student empowerment and advocacy group founded at the Southwest International Dyslexia Association Conference in 2017.  Student named and defined, the club’s goals are to raise understanding of dyslexia among teachers and parents, and to support students who are newly diagnosed or who might not yet know that they are dyslexic. And they decided to do it through the language of comics.

When I agreed to sponsor the Dyslexia Justice League at May Center, I was not a big fan of comic books. I had not read them growing up, and I knew very little about the lexicon of super heroes. But being mom to two boys, I knew the weight of superheroes like Spiderman and Batman. My house was littered with superhero figurines and masks, and I’d even hosted a superhero birthday party complete with a make-your-own-mask craft. More recently, I sat in a movie theater with tears in my eyes, grateful that my children would grow up with a story of a black superhero as part of the mythology of their lives.

Enter Bram Meehan, comic book aficionado, graphic designer, and teacher of all things comic.  Although he normally works with older students, Bram agreed to work with the DJL students, helping them develop the visual language and narrative structure necessary to tell the story of dyslexia through comics.  Over the last year, our group of 8-18 year olds have met on Saturdays, the older students mentoring the younger ones, developing our agenda for advocacy in parallel to developing their individual comics. They aren’t all about dyslexia, but they are all, by nature, about feeling different, conquering fear and shame and persevering in the face of the enemy, whether that’s the Joker, or Senor Cactus or Maniacal Math Teacher.

I knew the kids would enjoy talking about and looking at comics.  What I didn’t anticipate was how much they would learn about composition through the process.  I watched kids who normally balked at writing a couple of sentences compose entire narratives frame by frame.  Students who normally struggle with things like a sense of time and organization naturally grasped the concept of the passage of time in a comic strip, the use of the gutter as a magic time-machine, and the power of sequencing in telling a story frame by frame. I watched dyslexic kids think in a medium that matched the way their brains naturally think.  

Recently, I met a very successful businessman who shared with me that he is dyslexic, and he was not diagnosed until adulthood.  He told me, “When you have dyslexia, you walk around every day wearing a disguise, waiting to be found out. You’re giving these kids a chance to take that mask off and be proud of who they are.”   Or put the superhero mask on to give others the chance to take their mask off.

The Dyslexia Justice League will host a conference and comic book launch for kids and parents in Santa Fe on Saturday, October 6.  The conference, which will run from 12-4:30 pm, is open to the public and will feature separate sessions and activities for kids and parents focused on learning more about the strengths and challenges of dyslexia, a keynote speaker who has lived with dyslexia, a panel of dyslexic artists discussing the connection between dyslexia and creativity, and the launch of DJL’s first comic book.

After the conference, the Reading Group and May Center will sponsor Santa Fe’s Ready to Read, a free event at the Santa Fe Railyard Plaza including a free kid’s carnival, a book giveaway, other literacy activities, and lighting up the Railyard Water Tower Red for Reading and Dyslexia Awareness Month.   

What:  Dyslexia Justice League Student/Parent Conference and Santa Fe’s Ready to Read at the Railyard
When:  Saturday, October 6, Conference: 12-4:30 pm, Santa Fe’s Ready to Read Carnival, Book Giveaway, and Tower Lighting: 5-7:30 pm
Where:  Conference:  TBD
Santa Fe’s Ready to Read: Santa Fe Railyard Plaza

For more information and to register for the Student/Parent Conference, visit https://sw.dyslexiaida.org or www.maycenter.org

 

Rebecca Anderson