When Cradle to Career Director Angie Schreiber's son was in third grade, he couldn't read — not even the word "the."
But he was bright, good with numbers. Schreiber knew something else was wrong, separate from his intellectual capacity. She pursued the matter and, eventually, her son was diagnosed with dyslexia.
"Today, he is an engineer," Schreiber said of her son. "He is traveling the world because he works for the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers. He has been to Afghanistan. He took a job and spent five years in Europe. He basically can go anywhere and do anything he wants to because he can read."
An interest burgeoned within Schreiber — an interest in dyslexia and in helping children such as her son who struggled with it. She has spent the past 25 years or so working to help others overcome the hurdles life has put in their path and teaching others how to help as well.
Her dedication to her cause has not gone unnoticed.
Schreiber received the 2019 Wilson Anderson Service Award from the Kansas-Missouri branch of the International Dyslexia Association for her work in the community.
"The award is given by the branch to someone who has demonstrated leadership and commitment to people with dyslexia within the state," Schreiber said.
It came as a pleasant shock to her.
"I didn't even know I'd been nominated until I'd received the award," Schreiber said. "So it was quite an honor."
She was pleased at the recognition, though she was unable to accept it in person.
"Sometimes when you're down in the trenches, just working and working, you're wondering if anyone really notices," Schreiber said. "Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees and it's really nice to know that other people in the state and in the organization were noticing that — one student at a time, one voice at a time — we were making a difference and people were noticing that we were making a difference. I was shocked, I was pleased, I was humbled."
Through her years of effort, she has gained connections within the organization that recently rewarded her hard work. She has served on the board of the Kansas-Missouri branch of the International Dyslexia Association, serving as its president in 2010, and has worked with the group throughout her career. She served on the Kansas legislature's Dyslexia Task Force last year and she'll continue to do so for two more years. She works with instructors at Emporia State University to instruct those who intend to go into education about what it's like to have a disability.
She founded Cradle to Career six years ago with the aim of helping children in need from birth until adulthood. The nonprofit organization offers direct services to students with dyslexia and professional development for educators.
Schreiber hopes to continue getting the word out about her cause.
Though she's pushing forward to the future, she still hearkens back to her own son's struggles with dyslexia when talking about her current work.
"That's kind of when I began to learn about dyslexia and how little people knew about it," Schreiber recalls. "And even educators didn't know much about dyslexia as a specific learning disability. All of these kids were just kind of lumped together under one broad term."
Such vague diagnoses served no one, especially the children contending with them.
"It would be like saying, 'Well, you have cancer, and we're just going to treat you for cancer' instead of saying 'Well, you have breast cancer and we're going to treat you for breast cancer, not just cancer,'" Schreiber said. "And these kids have very specific needs and need to learn very specifically."
So when she first set out on her mission, she went out of her way — all the way to Texas — to learn a program that would help her teach her son in the way he needed to be taught. Schreiber taught her son to read and, as word got around, other parents with dyslexic children asked her to teach their own kids.
"We have this unwritten understanding that if you read to your child, they will learn to read," she said. "When we started the special ed process, I used to tell them, 'If I had a nickel for every book I had read to this child, I'd be a millionaire.' Because reading to children does not teach them to read. It gives them the vocabulary, it teaches them about books, but it will not teach a dyslexic child to read."
It's important that they learn early, because it can have a huge impact on their future. About 75 percent of the prison population is functionally illiterate, Schreiber said, reading at under the fourth-grade level.
They learn differently and, even after all these years, the system still needs improvements. To this day, Cradle to Career offers education to dyslexic students.
"It just continues — 25 years later, the story hasn't changed," she said. "And that was even one of the comments from the legislators when they passed the dyslexia bill to both schools and universities — 10 years ago, you assured us this problem was solved. So we did not pass a dyslexia bill. Here we are, 10 years later, and parents are still telling us the same story we heard 10 years ago. And so they're passing a dyslexia bill. At least we're establishing a task force, because obviously 10 years ago the problem wasn't solved."
As for Schreiber, she plans to keep throwing everything she has into making the world of learning a better place for those with this disability.
"It gives you this remarkable feeling when you know you've changed somebody's life," she said. "I guess that's why I continue to be so passionate about it."