Growing up, Patricia “Patti” Strauss found reading and writing uniquely challenging, yet for most of her life could never pinpoint why. After years of searching for answers with loving encouragement from her husband, Ira Strauss, Patti at last received a diagnosis and could put a name to her learning difference: dyslexia.
Often going undiagnosed for years and sometimes entire generations, dyslexia affects more than 40 million Americans – nearly 15% of the U.S. population– many of whom do not know where to turn for much-needed resources. In their lifetime and beyond, the Strauss’ wished to positively change this narrative and ensure struggling students of all ages could overcome their individual challenges and read proficiently for their age, just as Patti had been helped.
This vision shared by Ira and Patti lives on today through a charitable fund they established with their estate attorneys and collaborative planning with our Community Foundation. Designed to provide a continuum of services for children, families, and teachers, the Strauss Literacy Initiative is reimagining opportunities for struggling readers in three key ways: 1. identifying those with learning differences; 2. supporting literacy interventions from early reading supports through post-secondary services; and 3. professional development for teachers to equip them with intervention strategies that help identify, predict, and adjust for dyslexia and other learning challenges. And after years of research and community engagement, the initiative’s early efforts at three local organizations are already uncovering meaningful results.