Women Making A Difference: Literacy coach helping kids learn how to read

HOUSTON – Education has been the cornerstone of Dr. Tracy Weeden’s life and career. She’s fought passionately for young people to have a fair shot at success through literacy.

"If we can make sure that children are fully literate, they don't end up in the pipeline to prison,” Weeden said.

Weeden is the president and CEO of the Houston-based non-profit Neuhaus Education Center, an organization that helps school districts, teachers and parents better assist those with learning disabilities.

Katie Both’s mother was a teacher and, when Both was a child, her mother noticed her struggling to read.

"The English language -- it's tricky. And you've gotta give it grace and there is a way to decode it. And as a dyselxic, it doesn't come natural," Weeden said. 

Both was identified as having dyslexia, a learning disability characterized by difficulty in reading or interpreting words and letters.

What is dyslexia?

Her mother introduced Both to Neuhaus' system of learning, which is targeted at helping those with dyslexia decode language in a way that makes reading and learning easier to grasp.

Now, Both works for Neuhaus as a reading coach. She, like others at the organization, has been impressed with Weeden’s passion for innovative learning techniques and equitable educational opportunities. 

According to Neuhaus’s website, 1 in 5 people have a hard time learning to read and a mere 10 percent of teachers receive adequate training to help children at risk of reading failure.

Weeden says that, with the right techniques, literacy is possible for everyone.

"(A dyslexic) child can learn to read. And it takes structured literacy -- a really systematic approach to instruction so that they can learn to decode,” Weeden said.

That is why, Weeden said, it is so important to coach teachers in the way that an elite sports team would be coached.

"Schools can close that gap if teachers have the knowledge and the skills to know what to do for that student,” Weeden said. "This is my mission -- to pay that forward. Because I could have very easily been a statistic. But I am not because of the power of words."

Neuhaus offers programs for adults and resources for families with children who are struggling with dyslexia.

To learn more about classes for adults, click here.

For resources for families, click here.