The Gift of Reading: Ryan’s Journey

Dyslexia Program

By Gail Young

As a retired teacher, watching my grandson struggle with reading has been a difficult experience. Seeing him overcome that struggle has made me a true believer in a unique and powerful program, which has operated right here in Hindman for the past 29 years.

Ryan’s journey took several years and included two very special summers enrolled in Hindman Settlement School’s Summer Tutoring Program. I want to share his story to provide hope for other parents and grandparents.


From the beginning, Ryan was a highly intelligent and capable child. He was always smiling and seemed both happy and well adjusted. However, by the first and second grades, Ryan started experiencing problems. He often complained of headaches and stomach aches. The school’s frequent calls to his parents suggested Ryan was not a happy student.

Ryan’s parents met often with his teachers and the school guidance staff. They recommended he be tested to help determine what services would best meet his academic needs. The results of the testing indicated Ryan needed special accommodations with classroom work. These accommodations were made, but he continued to struggle with reading.

In spite of his own difficulties, Ryan readily showed empathy and understanding to classmates with special needs. According to his teachers, he was not only aware of the needs of other students, but he offered to help them, both socially and academically. Ryan participated in after school sports, 4-H club, community football, and other activities with his father and older brother. He was often successful at hunting and fishing exploits.

Although Ryan was progressing in grade level, there was talk of retaining him or requiring remedial classes. By the end of the 5th grade, he was required to take summer classes. It was then that his parents decided to have him evaluated by Hindman Settlement School’s dyslexia program. The evaluation consisted of a series of tests, which gave a more concise picture of his academic needs and learning differences. A decision was made to enroll Ryan in the Settlement School’s Summer Tutoring Program.

“…he is one of many students whose lives have been changed by the gift of reading.”

Much to our delight, Ryan stayed with us in Hindman while attending the 2009 Summer Tutoring Program. After just a few days in the program, he was engaged and enjoying the experience. As the summer progressed, Ryan’s attempts at reading increased. He often read road signs with pride. He also expressed pride in the math skills he was developing. By the end of the five-week session, he had made significant progress in reading and was awarded “most improved” at math problem solving.

Back home in Georgia, his teachers were impressed with Ryan’s progress. His 6th grade year was easier than schoolwork had been for him and, as the year progressed, he began planning to return to Hindman the following summer.

When he came to stay with us for the 2010 Summer Tutoring Program, his attitude was different. He started the summer by declaring that he would work for the “biggest award” presented at the end of the program and everyday he was up and “raring” to go. He worked hard, determined to finish certain levels in reading work. His tutors helped by providing extra instruction and encouragement.

Sitting in the assembly on the last day of the Summer Tutoring Program, Ryan’s hands became damp and his knees bounced as he waited for his name to be called. Finally, there were only two names left. You could see the pride on Ryan’s face when his name was called last as the recipient of the award for greatest improvement and highest gains. Tears streamed down the faces of his family and tutors. Later that evening, Ryan’s mother found him ready for bed and reading a chapter book!

Ryan is currently attending college at a top Georgia university. He is one of many students whose lives have been changed by the gift of reading. Learning to read is but one step along the journey, but it will enable Ryan and others like him to face and conquer future life challenges. We owe a great debt of gratitude to all who make this gift possible.