The worry nagged at Roxann Harvey from the time her children were in kindergarten. They couldn’t name all their letters, much less equate them with sounds. Teachers offered tepid assurances (some kids take longer than others) and frustrating advice (you should expose them to books).

But Harvey worked in a library, so both there and at home, each child had shelves full of books. Teachers insisted, “‘They will catch up,’” Harvey recalls. “I started to wonder if I was being irrational.”

Yet as kindergarten and then first grade passed by, her children, a girl and her younger brother, two grades apart, never caught up. The gap only grew. For years, Harvey pushed the school to provide her children with help from a specialist trained in a multisensory reading program that helps struggling readers make connections between words and sounds—a scarce resource in many Boston public schools. The entreaties went nowhere. “Let’s give it time,” the teachers told her.

For both of her children, it wasn’t until second grade that teachers finally grew concerned. For her son, the blithe assurances gave way to ominous warnings: “We’ll all be lucky if one day he’s able to read an article in the newspaper,” one teacher told her.

Harvey had already dropped out of her neuroscience doctorate to advocate for her children. Now she took a new job closer to home, too. “Our whole life had to change just to be focused on school and making sure my kids learned how to read.”

An estimated 5 to 15 percent of the population has dyslexia, the most common language disability, which hinders a person’s ability to read words correctly and efficiently. But in Boston and countless other communities, Black and Latino families have a much harder time than their white peers accessing two key tools to literacy: an instructor trained in how best to teach struggling readers the connections between letters and sounds, or a private school focused on children with language disabilities. Nationally, these teachers and schools are scarce and coveted commodities, generally accessible only to those with time, money and experience navigating complicated, sometimes intransigent bureaucracies.

Read the full article about language disability resources by Sarah Carr at The Hechinger Report.