My Red Letter - Gifts of Thanks

This week a lot of you have started receiving your special thank you letter and gifts for helping to create awareness for dyslexia in Austra...

This week a lot of you have started receiving your special thank you letter and gifts for helping to create awareness for dyslexia in Australia by sharing your own experience with dyslexia. All the parcels have now been sent and you should receive them shortly if you haven't already.

Author Jackie French, who was our guest judge, was so impressed by all the entries and wanted you to know how important and valued your entry is. She and her publisher Harper and Collins donated one of her books for each of you as a gift of recognition for your effort. Audible Australia were also moved to show just how important your contribution is and have kindly donated a voucher for three free audio books each.

* The expiry terms for the Audible voucher were misunderstood by us, meaning the ones you have received in the mail are expired. However Audible have been incredibly understanding of are unavoidable delays and are sending new vouchers to us immediately. We will email you all individually with the updated vouchers details as soon as we have them. Please do not contact Audible as we will be supplying the new codes to you. A huge thank you to Audible for being so understanding.

The campaign is a voluntary initiative so we have relied on the kindness of organisations to make donations. We are very grateful to the company Maths Pathway who have very kindly donated the cost of postage to all our entrants. They found the collection of letters very powerful and well worth the recognition and support.

We hope that you enjoy your special thank you gifts and they help to show you how important you are and that sharing your story has touched so many lives and is truly helping to raise awareness.

We plan to run more campaigns in 2017 so keep an eye on our website for more information. We hope that you and your family will continue to help us create even more awareness of dyslexia in Australia.


How children's Red Letters for Dyslexia are creating Red Ripples of Change

In December 2016, Dyslexia South Australia met with Federal Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham. During the meeting ...




In December 2016, Dyslexia South Australia met with Federal Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham. During the meeting the group presented him with a bound copy of all the letters received during the 2016,  ‘Make it a Red Letter Day for Dyslexia’ Campaign.



When interviewed by a newspaper journalist in late December Senator Birmingham was asked several questions, one of which was “What is your holiday reading and why?” his answer was the ‘Make it a Red Letter Day Book, a book of inspiring and confronting letters from children with dyslexia, that was presented to me last week’.




We are hopeful that reading the Red Letters has highlighted the urgency of the announcement made today, by Senator Birmingham of the 'expert group of principals, teachers, speech specialists, academics and researchers that will progress the staged implementation of a nation-wide phonics assessment and the development of a numeracy check'.

Thank you to Dyslexia SA for presenting our Book of Red Letters.

Following is more information from the announcement made today:

                  
Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said the short assessments of year 1 students' literacy and numeracy skills are backed by evidence and will provide early identification of those students who are behind so they can be targeted with interventions before the achievement gap grows.’

“The time to act is now if we’re going to turn around our declining national and international education results. We can’t afford to wait any longer,” Minister Birmingham said.

“it is important that these evidence-based reforms are ready to hit the classroom as soon as possible once new agreements are finalised and this expert panel will ensure that is the case’.

“These highly regarded academic, health and education experts will drive these reforms, establish an implementation plan including an initial pilot to be scaled up to an early years’ skills check for all Australian students. They will consider the frequency, timing and core skills to be assessed prior to reporting by mid-2017.

Minister Birmingham said the implementation of the phonics assessment was an example of an evidence-backed reform that had previously been lost in the “washing machine debate” of schools funding over many years.

“The introduction of nationally consistent assessments on-entry to school for every Australian child with a specific focus on decoding skills and word reading accuracy using objective testing was recommended in the 2005 National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy.

“In England, the improvement in the first five years of students taking part in the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check has been significant and includes the number of children meeting the expected standard from just over half in the first year to more than eight in 10 this year. The results are even more promising in the year following a student completing the initial assessment.

“It is important to identify if a child is not learning to read effectively, because then you can intervene and you can fix that problem, while evidence indicates that once a child reaches the age of eight there are enormous challenges to turning that around and the learning gap only blows out further.”
Minister Birmingham said the panel that would report back to Education Council in mid-2017 would consist of:

  • Ms Mandy Nayton OAM – Chief Executive Officer, Dyslexia-SPELD Foundation, Western Australian President AUSPELDProfessor 
  • Pamela Snow – Head of the La Trobe Rural Health School, registered psychologist, having qualified originally in speech pathology
  • Dr Jennifer Buckingham – Education Research Fellow the Centre for Independent Studies 
  • Mr Steven Capp – Principal, Bentleigh West Primary School Victoria 
  • Professor Geoff Prince – Director, Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute 
  • Ms Allason McNamara – Maths Teacher at Trinity Grammar, Kew, Vic, President Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers (AAMT)

 “Australia cannot afford to follow the status quo in schooling. We must be focused on delivering reforms that evidence from teachers and researchers have shown us will boost student outcomes.

“It’s time for Australian leaders, educators and families to focus on what works in our schools and I look forward to collaborating with all sections of the community to implement our reforms which are designed to support all students to achieve their absolute best.”  


The Terms of Reference for an early years’ assessment expert panel can be found at http://docs.education.gov.au/documents/terms-reference-expert-advisory-panel-national-literacy-and-numeracy-check-year-1-check

And the Statement can be read in full at :





Making Red Ripples - Dyslexia SA and Minister Simon Birmingham

Today Dyslexia SA president (and advocate rock star!), Dr. Sandra Marshall, met with with Federal Education Minister, The Hon. Simon Birmin...

Today Dyslexia SA president (and advocate rock star!), Dr. Sandra Marshall, met with with Federal Education Minister, The Hon. Simon Birmingham to discuss Dyslexia Awareness in Australian Schools.

As part of the meeting she presented him with a professionally printed copy of all the Red Letters from the Make it a Red Letter campaign




Dr. Marshall said that Minister Birmingham was thrilled to receive his book of Red Letters and couldn't wait to sit down to read through them all. He is extremely supportive of raising understanding of dyslexia and wants to thank you all for you amazing letters. Well done!


The Make it a Red Letter Day campaign is making lots of positive #redripples in the community. If you have a #redripple story to share please email it to us at myredletter@gmail.com 

Siobhan's Red Letter



Making Red Ripples - Empowering Emily

The Make it a Red Letter Day Campaign received many heartfelt letters, from very brave children and adults. Australian Author, dyslexic...

The Make it a Red Letter Day Campaign received many heartfelt letters, from very brave children and adults.

Australian Author, dyslexic and former Senior Australian of the year Jackie French happily took on the challenge of judging the many children’s letters for the other prize categories.




Jackie’s favourite letter was by 13 year old Emily Harris and contained this drawing which Jackie believes explains her own dyslexia perfectly saying;

"The drawing of what it's like to have dyslexia so perfectly describes what I have lived - everyone else has neat straight lines but I have a scribble. But that scribble can lead to my making connections that others can't. The drawing shows that everyone may look the same on the outside but one of them thinks differently. And I am proud that I do, too".





Emily Recently told her local newspaper the North Shore Times that “If you meet someone who has dyslexia, try understanding them and try to listen to what they have to say,”



Emily's School Principal (pictured above and who was the recipient of her Red Letter) was "incredibly impressed, particularly by her insightfulness and her honesty about the nature of what she was experiencing. It was a very well written letter. It was a reflection of Emily’s commitment and her poise"

And since receiving the Red Letter the school has worked to make teachers aware of what Emily and other dyslexic students experience.


Emily's Mum Katie says that the school was beyond responsive to Emily's concerns. “I didn’t expect such an amazing response,” she said, describing the teachers’ extra attention in assisting Emily. “This has just been a really wonderful experience. People don’t acknowledge it because they look fine, but there’s this hidden struggle that you find."




Emily says "I'm really happy that I found out that I’m not actually stupid, but just that my brain works differently, and the reason that the Red Letter competition was such a good idea is that people can say what it’s like to have dyslexia, and how hard they try, so people can realise and acknowledge it”.
And upon learning that her letter was Jackie's favourite of the campaign Emily said “I was so surprised and amazed and happy!”

To read Emily’s heartfelt Red Letter in Full please follow the link http://www.myredletter.com.au/2016/10/090-emilys-red-letter.html


Making Red Ripples - Lewis' Adventure

During September and October 2016, the Make it a Red Letter Day campaign was launched in Australia to encourage children and adults to pen ...

During September and October 2016, the Make it a Red Letter Day campaign was launched in Australia to encourage children and adults to pen a Red Letter about dyslexia  to help raise awareness and influence change. People were encouraged to write a Red Letter about dyslexia to a Politician, School Principal, Teacher, the Media or a person they felt may have an influence in creating change for dyslexia. These letters were to be heartfelt and tell the receiver about the struggles that are faced every day by dyslexic learners, asking for change at a school, state and national level.

One of the champions of the campaign has been David Pescud of Sailors with disABILITIES, who offered a prize of a sailing adventure for a Red Letter that tells the story of ‘Triumph over Adversity’.



To begin with here are some excerpts of David’s own Red Letter;

“I should start by introducing myself, my name is David Pescud and at aged eighteen I was diagnosed with dyslexia. At the time I did not know what it was and I certainly was not going to ask anybody.  This was 1965 and it was a different world.

I am writing this so that people might understand through my story, what it is like to be different. What it is like to be ridiculed by ones school teachers, peers and pretty well everybody. Not occasionally, but every day and when they are not ridiculing you, you are doing it to yourself. In my day at school the method of teaching literacy to a dyslexic was to cane you. Of course, we do not do that anymore. We have found much more subtle ways of making someone feel inadequate and different.

If we consider what do we know works for us as human beings, the short answer is that positive experience over negative experience will generally make a more rounded well-adjusted human being. Well if it is so obvious why do we continue to send our children to schools that are incapable of dealing with a whole host of differences?  Because at the end of the day that’s what dyslexia is, it’s a difference not a disability.

I think schools should prepare us for our future to go into the world as young adults, with tools that are appropriate to our needs whatever they may be. The first thing we need is confidence, optimism and an ability to think I can. There are too many unnecessarily damaged souls in our society. At Sailors with disABILITIES we deal with these problems on a daily basis. We see bright young enthusiastic faces that do not believe in themselves. They did once, before they attended school but they don’t now.”

To read David’s Red Letter in full please go to http://www.myredletter.com.au/2016/10/david-pescuds-red-letter.html

At the end of the campaign one letter in particular stood out as a story of ‘Triumph over Adversity’. The letter was from Lewis Squadrito aged 16, and was written to both the Department of Education and the Catholic Education Commission in Australia.

I am dyslexic. I am currently in Year 11 at a Catholic School in New South Wales. My entire schooling has been an absolute nightmare. In my primary school years I couldn’t read. If you can’t read, you cannot participate fully in any subject. I always felt different from my peers. I was the butt of a lot of teasing and bullied frequently. My teachers did not know what was going on with me. They did not understand me at all. I became invisible in the classroom. If I was quiet, hopefully no one would notice me. If they didn’t notice me they wouldn’t ask me any questions. I endured the Reading Recovery Program which does not work for dyslexic learners. I was taken out of class constantly and made to work on programs which did not work for me. I developed severe anxiety around going to school. I was a broken child.

It was my mum who pursued answers and even when I was identified as dyslexic, the teachers were not convinced dyslexia was even real. It’s hard to hear that it doesn’t exist when you are living with it every day. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t spell, I couldn’t write and I was in year 6.

It was my mum who taught me how to read, how to spell and how to write not school. She educated herself on how to best help me.
High school has not been any better. The difference is, I will now stand up and advocate for myself but this has taken years to be able to do. I still have difficulty accessing the curriculum and demonstrating my knowledge. I am entitled to provisions, but do I always get them........NO! During assessment time the school needs to constantly be reminded to give me my provisions. Sometimes they forget, sometimes when they do remember, I am given the wrong exam question etc.

A couple of my teachers have been supportive and understanding, but then a new year rolls around and the same set of problems occur. Most of the teachers I have had have had no idea of what dyslexia is or how to teach me. A sub-teacher strikes fear into the heart of any dyslexic learner. Information about kids with learning differences such as dyslexia are not passed on, so again, leaving me exposed and open to bullying from both students and teachers. Dyslexia is invisible so it is easily forgotten. The fear of being called out to answer a question or worse still, to read aloud in class, is a real everyday fear.

My family are my biggest supporters. My mum has been my fiercest advocate. She has had to fight for my rights and my provisions. She is the one who finds audio books for me so I can access the curriculum. She has been bullied herself by teachers but will not stop fighting for me. I have worked harder than most kids. I have basically gone to school and been home schooled all at the same time. I have done extra programs for years with my mums help to be able to read, spell and write. I am smart. I know that now, but for years I did not. I did not understand why my peers could do easily the things I found to be the hardest. You are made to feel stupid, worthless and so much shame. I am now finishing Year 11 and about to begin Year 12. I still suffer anxiety around my learning.

I will get my HSC, but not because of the school system but rather in spite of it. I cannot wait to finish school and find my place in the world where I will be treated with respect. If it wasn’t for my mum, I still may not be able to read and write. I say shame on the education system. This has to change, dyslexic kids deserve so much better. Thank you for reading my letter. 

Yours sincerely, Lewis Squadrito Age 16





Once Lewis’ letter was chosen as the Recipient of the Triumph over Adversity Prize, wheels were put in motion for he and his family to meet with David Pescud and enjoy the Sailors with disABILITIES experience on Sydney Harbour. 

Lewis’ family which consists of Lewis, his sister Emily and parents Vicki and Scott met David Pescud and his wife Deb at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia at Darling Point, they enjoyed a late lunch and long chat where Lewis and David spoke about their challenges with dyslexia how they could make a difference for others experiencing the same difficulties.


The family boarded the yacht at 5pm and cruised out on Sydney Harbour to take part in a Twilight Racing Event. With a crew of 10 plus Lewis’ family on board they raced! David and the crew put Lewis to work, using the capstan winch to tension the boom on the main sail. David let Lewis skipper the yacht and taught him how to block the competing boats. Lewis skippered the yacht across the finish line in third place.


David and his crew made the family feel very welcome, David kept them entertained with stories and Lewis’ family said they were genuine, caring and compassionate people. Lewis’ Mum Vicki says that ‘this was extremely empowering for Lewis, he has had a tough time and this was so good for him, and he has found a new mentor in David.’



The Make it a Red Letter Day Organising Committee, would like to thank David, Deb and all at SWD! And a special thank you to the Squadrito family for allowing us to share this story.

Victoria, Maree, Carolyn, Heidi, Belinda, Jen, Sarah, Anita & Julie
Make it a Red Letter Day Committee 2016.




Red Letter Competition Finalists

One hundred and four times we have wept with you and we have felt your pain and struggles as you navigate the Australian education syste...



One hundred and four times we have wept with you and we have felt your pain and struggles as you navigate the Australian education system.  One hundred and four times we have also laughed through our tears at your optimism, creativity and dyslexic power to triumph over immense challenges.  Each of your letters, these precious red letters, have changed the world and have begun change in our country.  

Politicians have read the red letters, teachers have read them, journalists have read them and so have your brother and sister dyslexic learners.  You have inspired us all with your powerful words and dyslexic superpowers and these letters will go on to speak to policy makers all over our country and beyond.  

We; the organising committee, Jackie French, Harper Collins and Audible want to thank you all for writing.  We want you to know that each one of your red letters has won our hearts.  Although there can only be some major winners, you have all won because your red letters have gone out into our world and are now beginning to effect change.  Thank you for bearing your dyslexia on your shoulder and for being brave enough to speak out and to tell your stories.  For this reason we are so pleased to let you know that our wonderful sponsors have awarded every one of your red letters a prize.  Harper Collins and Jackie French have awarded you a specially chosen book from Jackie's collection and Audible have awarded you all three audiobooks to enjoy forever.