Nova Scotia

Sydney's Big Fiddle to light up in red as part of dyslexia awareness campaign

Monuments and landmarks across the country are being lit up in red during October, which has been designated international Dyslexia Awareness Month.

International Make it Read campaign highlights challenges of learning to read with dyslexia

The Big Fiddle, a major landmark in Sydney, N.S., will be lit up in red on Wednesday evening as part of the Mark it Read dyslexia awareness campaign. (Robert Short/CBC)

Sydney's Big Fiddle will take on a red glow Wednesday night as part of a national campaign around dyslexia awareness.

Monuments and landmarks across the country are being lit up in red during October, which has been designated international Dyslexia Awareness Month.

The International Dyslexia Association estimates as many as 15 to 20 percent of people have dyslexia or some sort of language-based learning difficulty.

The awareness campaign is called Mark it Read. The title is a "bit of a play on words" to signal what life can be like with dyslexia, said Sandra Jack-Malik, a professor at Cape Breton University and a national board member with Dyslexia Canada.

"R-e-a-d is the act of reading," Jack-Malik told CBC Cape Breton's Information Morning, "and r-e-d, which is what some kids living with dyslexia often see on their written work."

Sandra Jack-Malik teaches in the education program at Cape Breton University and is a board member with Dyslexia Canada. (Steve Sutherland/CBC)

Jack-Malik said children with dyslexia can struggle with spelling, language fluency and comprehension, making reading a real struggle.

"Children with dyslexia often have trouble with this big skill called phonological awareness, which is taking sounds, pulling them apart and pushing them back together," she said. "Reading is in fact a code, and we have to teach children to decode."

Jack-Malik said she first became interested in dyslexia when she worked as a public school teacher and realized she didn't know how to help some of her students with reading difficulties.

"I always knew there were kids in the class that, regardless of what I was doing in terms of intervention, the kids weren't learning to read. These children were bright kids, and I didn't know what to do and the skill set I had wasn't helping them," she said.

Jack-Malik, who now teaches in CBU's education program, said she did professional development work in the United States around dyslexia and ran her own literacy clinic for a time.

She said more needs to be done to support children with dyslexia and their teachers.

"How do we do a better job of sharing what we know, what the science base says, with teachers on the ground?" said Jack-Malik. "How do we do that better so all kids learn to read?"

Other activities during dyslexia awareness month in Sydney include workshops on assistive learning at Cape Breton University, and a public conversation at the McConnell Library on Oct. 30.

With files from Cape Breton's Information Morning

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