What is the Strauss Literacy Initiative?

Early efforts are underway in Sarasota and Manatee counties to help struggling readers become proficient.

Thanks to an adult who lived most of her life unaware of a dyslexia diagnosis, early efforts are underway in Sarasota and Manatee counties to help struggling readers become proficient and identify those with learning disorders so learners of all ages can access much-needed resources.

The Strauss Literacy Initiative, managed by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, is bringing together nonprofit organizations, schools, and education partners to significantly influence professional awareness about literary challenges like dyslexia and positively impact families across the region.

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
  3. Professional development for teachers to equip them with intervention strategies that help identify, predict, and adjust for dyslexia and other learning challenges

Often going undiagnosed for years, 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.

The Legacy of Ira and Patricia Strauss

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: dyslexia, sometimes known as “a specific learning disability.” She and her husband, Ira, vowed that no child would go through the confusion that she had.

This vision shared by Ira and Patti lives on today through a charitable fund they established with guidance from estate attorneys Ric Gregoria and Colton Castro at Williams Parker, the Strauss’ longtime financial advisor Michael White at RBC Wealth Management, and the Community Foundation.

Established in 2017 with a $23 million endowment, The Ira and Patricia Strauss Fund for Children's Literacy now serves children from birth through college by providing phonics instruction programming, early diagnosis of reading challenges, and continuously accessing and improving methods to address community learning needs.

Ira and Patricia Strauss

Pilot Partners

After years of research and community engagement, the Strauss Literacy Initiative's early efforts at three local organizations are already uncovering meaningful results, from the classrooms of Visible Men Academy to the hallways of St. Mary Academy to the disability centers of State College of Florida. Students as young as Kindergarten to those just beginning their college careers are all grappling with how to navigate their learning differences. Many are now finding solutions to the problems that have challenged them for years.

Read stories, view photos, and listen to dispatches from these pilot partners and those supported through the initiative in the section below.

Stories, Photos, and Dispatches from the
Strauss Literacy Initiative

October 14, 2021

From Identification to Success: Supporting Students with Learning Differences at St. Mary Academy

By Blog, Homepage - Blog, Story of Impact - Featured, Community Foundation of Sarasota County,

Editor’s Note: In-depth research and exploratory pilot programs are helping develop the Strauss Literacy Initiative, a collaborative effort managed by the Community Foundation of Sarasot…

August 8, 2021

A Legacy of Literary and Learning Support Lives On

By Story, Roxie Jerde, Homepage Spotlight Item, Story of Impact - Featured,

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 lo…

August 6, 2021

Community Foundation of Sarasota County and Local Partners Collaborate to Support Student Literacy and Teacher Professional Development to Inform Intervention Strategies, Help Predict Dyslexia

By Press Release,

Through the Strauss Literacy Initiative, families, teachers, and partners are reimagining opportunities for struggling readers at all ages to uncover many often undiagnosed with this learning…

August 6, 2021

Reimagining the ABCs of Literacy Support at Visible Men Academy

By Blog, Homepage - Blog, Story of Impact - Featured, Community Foundation of Sarasota County,

Editor’s Note: In-depth research and exploratory pilot programs are helping develop the Strauss Literacy Initiative, a collaborative effort managed by the Community Foundation of Saraso…

May 19, 2019

Legacy Giving: The Ira and Patricia Strauss Fund For Children's Literacy

By Blog, Story, Community Foundation of Sarasota County,

During 47 years of married life, Ira and Patti Strauss built three homes: a beach house in Fire Island, New York; a farm in Schooley’s Mountain, New Jersey; and another beach home on Boc…

Is your organization doing work to support literacy or are you interested in learning more?

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Kirsten Russell 

Vice President, Community Impact

941-955-3000

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