October is International Dyslexia Month, and Ameer Baraka, award-winning, Emmy Nominated Actor, author, and dyslexia advocate, has launched his newest book, “UNDIAGNOSED: The Ugly Side of Dyslexia.” The book promotes early detection of the learning disability in schools, and awareness and support for prison inmates in the United States.
UNDIAGNOSED: The Ugly Side of Dyslexia is an enlightening read detailing the often-traumatic experiences of illiterate children and adults. It is an inspiring tale of grit, determination, and perseverance. A must-read for families and educators, and a relevant teaching tool for literacy leaders everywhere.
Dr. Terrie Noland, Vice President of Educator Initiatives for Learning Ally, wrote the foreword for the book, saying, “As I read Ameer’s story, I felt like I was sitting with a secret of what to do as a parent, educator, and literacy leader. I wanted to shake my fists in the air, and tell everyone that we collectively failed Ameer, and we cannot continue to let this happen to anyone else.”
As a poor kid growing up in New Orleans, Ameer suffered unnecessarily with the consequences of illiteracy – not fitting in, feeling stupid, dropping out of school, juvenile detention, delinquency and adjudication, mental health, drugs, prison. Ridiculed at home and at school, Ameer was told repeatedly he was lazy and unmotivated. Feeling isolated and fearful, Ameer turned to the streets and a life of crime. He did not learn he was dyslexic until age 23 in the state prison system.
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability and neurobiological in origin, characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition, and poor spelling and decoding. In the U.S., approximately 43 million people have dyslexia, including an estimated 20% of students in schools or one in five. Many more students, like Ameer, go undiagnosed.
Dyslexia runs in families and occurs in people of all backgrounds and intellectual levels. People with dyslexia may struggle with comprehension and organizational skills, planning and prioritizing, keeping time, and concentrating. With appropriate evidence-based instruction based in the science of reading, students with dyslexia can learn successfully.
In 2016, Ameer Baraka gave testimony on his firsthand experiences with Dyslexia at the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) committee hearing on Dyslexia chaired by Senator Bill Cassidy. Consequently, in 2018, Senator Cassidy’s provision providing for the screening of inmates for dyslexia was included in the latest version of the First Step Act.
In 2021, Ameer partnered with Learning Ally, a national nonprofit education solutions provider, working with more than 450,000 educators to improve literacy and equity for disadvantaged students struggling to read in Pre-K-12. He keynoted Learning Ally’s annual Spotlight on Dyslexia virtual conference, where educators and parents can learn about the latest research on brain-based learning, and effective teaching practices.
The actor and dyslexic activist continues to lead the charge in solving the literacy crisis in America’s schools and prison systems. His message to young people: “You can overcome meager beginnings and learn to thrive academically through early diagnosis, understanding parents, educators trained in the science of reading, strong faith, and the pursuit of a good education.”