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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Vital

LET US READ: a documentary about Structured Literacy and neurodiversity.


When I began to develop the idea of producing a documentary about teaching methods and how these methods could benefit not only kids with dyslexia but all kids in general, I already knew this project's scope was way beyond sharing an academic approach. My wife's and my experience as parents of a dyslexic kid brought us to face a scenario we would have never imagined when we moved to the US from Italy in 2009—a scenario made of unnecessary challenges that, unfortunately, so many American families have to face.

I was born in Milan, Italy, and I lived there until I was 36. But when I was five, my family moved to the US for my father's work. I lived two years in Houston, Texas, and another two years in Brooklyn, NY. I learned English pretty fast in just six months. At the age of nine, I spoke two languages fluently, and when I returned to Milan, I had a life experience that inevitably shaped my vision of the world in my coming years as a teenager and young adult. To me, the US always represented the opportunity for improvement, personal or collective, as that was the education I received. After all, I grew up four years, from five to nine, with a hand on my heart, singing the US national anthem and believing in two simple principles: always try to improve yourself and society, and never give up.

When I moved back to the US, I was 36. I was not that naive to believe I was moving to a perfect country. Some challenges were crystal clear at the surface, while others emerged with experience. But it was the country I felt like home. And it became the country where my favorite human being, my daughter, was born.

In this post, I do not want to write too in-depth about our daughter's experience at the public school, systematically being pulled out of class and receiving an IEP with goals far below her abilities. Instead, I would like to share how this experience expanded our awareness as parents regarding Structured Literacy and access to a fair education opportunity. Everyone deserves a chance in life. And that chance starts in the classroom.

In our journey, we found an amazing school called Chartwell School. This school provides a science-based multisensory approach focused on phonics. It also empowers different learners boosting their confidence to make a real difference in our world using their unique problem-solving and visionary skills. And we all know how much our world needs them. The only problem with this school was that it was located 2,240 miles from our home in Highland Park, Illinois. We sold our house, I quit my full-time job, we packed our cars with our two dogs and our daughter, and we drove west for one week. Chartwell, here we are.

Beyond being an excellent school, Chartwell has a Teacher Training Institute program that provides public, private, and charter school teachers with science-based tools and strategies to explicitly and systematically navigate and educate students with specific learning differences, including dyslexia and ADHD.

The improvement in our daughter's academic journey was almost immediate. As a filmmaker, I wanted to produce something to share the story, hoping it could benefit other families dealing with the same challenge. And the more I learned, the more I realized that this lack of education opportunity impacts not only families with dyslexic kids but our society in general. Only 35% of kids are natural learners in reading and writing. The proficiency reading level of over 50% of US adults is below the 6th-grade level. Our society's issues and opportunities strongly intersect with this education challenge. From reducing juvenile crimes to improving our nation's GDP, from reducing costs to increasing revenues, no matter a person's political opinion, an improved society starts within a classroom.

LET US READ has this ambition. Talking about the solution for our current reading crisis and how this solution can be made accessible to everyone throughout our US public education system.

1 Comment

Nov 25, 2023

I didn't even watch this yet, but know from this article and my own experience as a teacher that this needs to be seen and heard..... I just had a good friend who is testifying of her second grader's struggle in the public schools and the help she finally found outside the public school system. Thank you for bringing attention to this cornerstone societal issue.

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