Hello 2021: The pandemic wake up call

For me, the pandemic has been a real wake up call. We need to do even more to make ourselves heard. We need to amplify and listen to the voices of the most vulnerable in our community. ~Dyslexic LIbrary

Every year, I write a post going over the highlights of the past year and my goals for the coming year (and, if you read to the end — the song that was the soundtrack to my life in 2020).

This year, I wasn’t in the mood to rehash what has been a tragic time in the lives of so many. But there is something satisfying about marking the end to this terrible year, and laying claim to better days ahead.

While 2019 was full on, face-to-face dyslexia advocacy, 2020 was all about virtual meetings and day-to-day survival. I hope 2021 is about building something better.

For the past year, my singular focus has been on keeping my family safe, caring for my mother and helping to guide my daughter through the pain of this pandemic and online learning.

Much to my surprise — rather than ending the year on a sour note, I feel more committed, more focussed, than ever to bring about change.

Year in review

I started the new year with an interview on CBC radio about lack of supports for dyslexic students in Ontario schools and ended the year by writing a presentation to our school board about the difficulties faced by students with dyslexia and other exceptionalities during pandemic learning.

I was thrilled to find out that teachers and dyslexic students around the world are using my Peanuts post, Everything you ever wanted to know about being dyslexic in 20 Peanuts cartoons, to inspire them at school (that post has been read by more than 40,000 people).

I read and reviewed more books than ever this year.

I started an Instagram project I’m very proud of: Everyday Dyslexia Heroes telling stories of real people in our community for Decoding Dyslexia Ontario.

And my family was in attendance at the first ever Mark it Read ceremony for dyslexia awareness month at Ottawa City Hall. Talk about a light in the dark!

October 2020 – Ottawa Dyslexia Awareness Month first “Mark it Read” event (Photo credit: Natalie Gallimore)

Globally, there was a huge push to get science-based reading into schools. I know we’ll be hearing more about this when the Ontario Human Rights Commission releases its Right To Read inquiry report in the spring.

So what about 2021?

For me, the pandemic has been a real wake up call. We need to do even more to make ourselves heard. We need to amplify and listen to the voices of the most vulnerable in our community.

This pandemic has shown us that the most vulnerable amongst us — seniors, disabled, chronically ill, racialized, low income, housing insecure — have been disapproportinately affected by Covid and by the shut down (affecting learning, health and income).

The pandemic response has consistently ignored and marginalized the people who need the most help. Look no further than the many seniors dying in care homes, racialized and lower income frontline workers with higher rates of Covid, and students with learning exceptionalities struggling to stay afloat both mentally and academically. Yet again, if you have the money or the access to services, you are more apt to get what you need to be healthy and safe. That’s just not acceptable.

This year, my goal is to keep advocating for greater awareness for children and adults with dyslexia, and to amplify the voices of the most vulnerable in our community. My heart and mind are committed to the Black Literacy Matters movement, to those who can’t afford tutors, and to people with dyslexia in our prisons. One reason why I donated to, and support, Literal Change here in Canada.

Advocating for effective reading instruction is one part of this, but we also need greater awareness about how dyslexia affects all aspects of our lives and how it intersects with other identities. We need schools, employers, businesses and governments to design their services with dyslexia, diversity and inclusion in mind.

Much to my surprise — rather than ending the year on a sour note, I feel more committed, more focussed, than ever to bring about change.

Gratitude

2021 marks my 4th year of dyslexia advocacy. I’m forever grateful to you all for following along on this journey with me. I’m immensely grateful for the friends I’ve made through my volunteer work with Decoding Dyslexia Ontario and those I’ve met on social media. The global dyslexia community is truly amazing. I’m incredibly thankful to my MPP Joel Harden for his continued advocacy at the provincial level. And to my husband and daughter who every day remind me what matters most, and my mom who even in illness is a light in the darkness.

Happy, healthy, Covid-free year to all.

Song of the year

Rainbow by Kacey Musgraves

“If you could see what I see, you’d be blinded by the colors
Yellow, red, and orange, and green, and at least a million others
So tie up the bow, take off your coat, and take a look around

Cause the sky has finally opened
The rain and wind stopped blowin’
But you’re stuck out in the same ol’ storm again
You hold tight to your umbrella
Well, darlin’, I’m just tryin’ to tell ya
That there’s always been a rainbow hangin’ over your head

…It’ll all be alright”

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