LANSING, Mich., March 18, 2022 — Yesterday, state Reps. Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Township), Timothy Beson (R-Bay City), Mary Cavanagh (D-Redford Township) and John Damoose (R-Harbor Springs) introduced four bills to address Michigan’s reading crisis and improve literacy rates among children.

“Over 50% of 3rd and 4th graders in Michigan are reading and writing below grade level. Learning to read and write is the foundation for success in our society, and difficulty with reading holds kids back in every area of their lives,”  Brixie said. “Despite the importance of literacy and the prevalence of students that struggle with learning to read, Michigan has no statewide strategy to screen and intervene to help those with the common, language-based learning challenge of dyslexia. There are severe academic as well as psychological ramifications for children who do not adequately learn to read and write. Research provides proven methods to identify those at risk for reading failure and evidence-based instructional practices to prevent some of these consequences by helping children acquire reading and writing so they can learn and thrive. The Legislature needs to take action to address the reading crisis in our state as quickly as possible”

Dyslexia is a learning disability that is characterized by difficulties with accurate or fluent word recognition and poor decoding abilities. These bills will help ensure that educators are adequately trained to understand dyslexia, to identify students early on who are struggling and to offer the appropriate interventions.

“Educators want nothing more than to help their students thrive academically and in life,” Damoose said. “Students deserve to be taught by teachers that know the science of reading and how to intensify instruction when necessary. Those training in our institutions to become teachers in Michigan will be equipped to help Michigan’s children excel in reading, which impacts all of their learning.”

“Michigan is dead last for helping students with dyslexia succeed, which is contributing to our failure to bridge the literacy gap, leaving students and families discouraged and hopeless,” Cavanagh said. “We’ve put these bills together with folks who understand this struggle firsthand, and my bill will establish an advisory committee to employ their experiences and knowledge in guiding the department. The final bill makes sure that any teacher licensed in Michigan will have an awareness of what dyslexia is and how it affects students’ learning. For teachers that teach reading, the required training in structured language and literacy will empower them to help Michigan’s children become strong readers. I am proud to be part of this bill package because we need to better serve all of Michigan’s children, especially those that struggle with dyslexia.”

Dyslexia affects an estimated 5-10% of the population, which is anywhere from 108,000 to 217,000 children in Michigan alone. There are proven solutions to treat children with the characteristics of dyslexia, but early intervention is key.

“This legislation has far-reaching potential. Michigan children, no matter where they live or how much money their parents have, will receive instruction and intervention that is grounded in cognitive science. And they will receive this instruction and intervention early — during a critical window of time — before negative consequences have kicked in,” said Lauren A. Katz, Language and Literacy Specialist, Ph.D., CCC-SLP.

The bill package includes:

  • House Bill 5935 (Cavanagh) would establish a 10-member advisory committee tasked with developing a dyslexia resource guide.
  • House Bill 5934 (Brixie) would require school districts to screen children during Kindergarten, first grade, second grade and third grade for reading difficulties using a universal screening assessment. If the assessment indicates that a child is experiencing difficulty learning to read, the school district shall ensure that a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) is provided using evidence-based, scientifically supported methods of reading instruction.
  • House Bill 5936 (Damoose) would require teacher preparation institutions to offer instruction on the characteristics of dyslexia, the consequences of dyslexia, evidence-based interventions and accommodations for children with dyslexia, and methods to develop a system of support that meets the needs of students that struggle to read.
  • House Bill 5937 (Beson) would require teacher licensure to be tied to training described in HB 5936.