Teaching Students of Color with Dyslexia in Special Education to Read

The Time is Now!

Edited by:
Shawn Anthony Robinson, Wisconsin's Equity and Inclusion Laboratory, University of Wisconsin-Madison


“As I see it today, the ability to read awoke inside me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.” (Haley & Malcolm X, 1964; p. 445).

In a historic article titled, “Negro Illiteracy in the United States,” Lichtenberger (1913) described that the rate of illiteracy among people of color throughout the United States (U.S.) was disturbing as their illiteracy rate far exceeded that of Whites. Lichtenberger explained that prior to the abolishment of slavery that the academic system had a long history of segregation between the rich and poor, and students of different ethnicities (Hurn, 1978). In fact, it was a criminal offense to teach any student of color to read or write as education was mainly accessible to White students who received private schooling or tutoring. Students from lower socioeconomic status were deprived of a fair education as well as of curriculum focusing on reading, writing, and math (Sirin, 2005). Mol and Bus (2011) asserted that students from socially disadvantaged communities have been less likely exposed to a home environment with rich print, have limited access to those types of environments and other community resources that would assist them in overcoming those reading difficulties. This neglect for human life was manifested by failing to teach students of color and it resulted in the education of these families being at the mercy of state governments. Many Whites did not want colored children to become educated, fearing they would challenge White supremacy and not be content with jobs working in the fields or in domestic service (Woodson, 1933). Even in the early education period, between 1776 - 1840, formal education with high standards was reserved for those of European ancestry, and Negroes were pigeonholed and separated from receiving equal education. Fast-forwarding to the 20th and 21st century, Lichtenberger’s writings are very pertinent as students of color in special education continue to face numerous educational inequities within the academic systems. Even with the Brown V Board of Education Supreme Court ruling that acknowledged such practices violated the Fourteenth Amendment – section 1 (Ancheta, 2006; O’Connor & Fernandez, 2006; Welner, 2006).

The Fourteenth Amendment addresses many aspects of the rights of citizens, but given the history of America and slavery, students of color have been deprived of liberty of a free and appropriate education, which has been evident by various legal cases and laws (Albrecht et al., 2011; Board of Education. v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 1982; Mills v. Board of Education of District of Columbia, 1972). The inequalities that exist in modern times plague student development and can be an immediate result of racism (Leonardo & Grubb, 2013). Further, when factoring in reading gaps, the percentage of students with above average reading proficiency scores on statewide reading assessments compared to their White counterparts is abysmal (Schott Foundation for Public Education, 2012). Moreover, the inequalities that students of color encounter include but are not limited to: lower curriculum standards, cultural-relevant pedagogy, and high stakes testing (Gormley & McDermott, 2011; Ladson-Billings, 2012). Unquestionably, the disproportionality in special education of males of color is not a new phenomenon in America’s society. It is a societal and chronic challenge in education that threatens to ravage futures of those caught in such disparity (Skiba, et al., 2006).


“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” Frederick Douglass

Academic success for students of color in Special Education is frequently elusive as the United States continues to endure the legacy of academic discrimination (Alexander, 2010; Skiba et al., 2008). Consequently, educational policies have not fully protected the equal rights or adequately responded to the learning needs of students’ academic shortcomings or taken advantage of their strengths (Palmer & Davis, 2012). This persistent reading gap has not closed in generations, which is deeply harmful to our American democracy. With every passing year that goes by without alleviating problems affecting the reading gap, the damage is costly, and no failure is more expensive than the failure to educate our students of color, especially Black males, in the PK-12 pipeline. The danger to our future scholars becomes more critical each year, and these are problems that are deeply rooted in America. And, while teachers cannot change the past, we can, and must, change the special education system that shapes the future of students!

Focus and Contribution:

This edited book will fill a needed gap of scholarly research, and manuscripts must adopt a critical analysis that brings together the latest theoretical, quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods research studies that:

> Analyzes policy prescriptions designed to reduce educational disparities and inequality in the area of reading

> Appraises programmatic prescriptions for their ability to advance educational outcomes for students of color with dyslexia in special education particularly males throughout the PK-12 school system.

Overall, it is important to note “People don't realize how a [boy’s] whole life can be changed by one book” (Haley & Malcolm X, 1964; p. 964); therefore, the time is now!

Manuscript Submission:

Manuscripts will have clear and explicit implications for educational practice and make a significant contribution to the field of special education and reading for students of color, especially males.

> Abstracts should be 120-150 words

> Chapter proposals should be emailed to Dr. Shawn Anthony Robinson no later than May 31st, 2018.

> Decisions about invitations to submit full chapters will be made by the first week of June 2018.

Send Inquiries to: Shawn Anthony Robinson drshawnanthonyrobinson@gmail.com

Tentative Schedule for Publication:

Abstract Submissions: May 31, 2018

Chapters Prepared by Authors: June 1-September 30, 2018

Chapters Reviewed by Peers: October 1, 2018-January 4, 2019
Chapter Corrections by Authors: January 7, 2019-February 28, 2019

Copy Edited by Guest Editor: March 2019

Final Changes Made by Authors: April 2019

Submission to Publisher: May 2019

  • This title is in development and is not yet available to order online. Please call the IAP office for more information: 704.752.9125
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