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Maja Irwin
At The Reading Foundation, we understand that each student faces different challenges throughout their academic journey, and our team of educators is committed to addressing their unique needs in an intensive, one-to-one setting. We love sharing the stories of the students and families we’ve worked with, and in this instalment of the blog we’ll be featuring the Irwin family.

Four years ago, Maja Irwin was in Grade 4 and reading at a kindergarten level. Maja was struggling with dyslexia and, despite having a keen interest in books and listening to stories, was unable to learn or retain sight words. She received reading assistance at school during Grades 1 to 4, but the small-group sessions were doing little to help her progress or catch up to her classmates.

“She always felt so vulnerable not being able to read, and she was often afraid of what people would think of her not being able to read,” recalls Maja’s mother, Jessica. “She was incredibly self-conscious of being a non-reader the older she got, because everyone expects a nine-year-old and a 10-year-old to be able to read simple words. At that point in time she couldn’t even recognize her own last name from a list.”

A friend of Jessica’s, who also has a child with dyslexia, had worked with The Reading Foundation and experienced a great deal of success. She recommended trying the program, and as Jessica and her husband, Darren, continued to watch Maja struggle, they decided it was time to try a different route. Maja enrolled in the Discover Reading program during spring break in 2014 and spent two weeks participating in intensive one-to-one sessions.

“In the first couple of days she found it to be very challenging, because it’s four hours of one-on-one—there’s no place to hide, there’s no daydreaming,” Jessica says. “But then on day four and day five, she herself started to see the progress she was making and things started to click in a way that had never happened before. Halfway through the second week of spring break she said, ‘I want to keep doing this.’”

After spring break, Jessica and Darren made arrangements with Maja’s school that allowed her to spend her afternoons at The Reading Foundation and complete the 80 hours required in the Discover Reading program. When Maja completed the program, her parents decided to enroll her in after-school and weekend sessions to build on her progress.

“She ended up catching up four grade levels when she finished the Discover Reading program, so she was at grade level when she finished,” Jessica says. “And because that program worked so well, we did every other program The Reading Foundation had to offer. Since Maja was a non-reader, she couldn’t write, and so we took her through the Discover Writing program.”

Maja worked on the Discover Writing program for two to three hours per day throughout the school year. When she began the program, she was in Grade 6 and writing at a Grade 2 level. By the end of the year, however, her writing level had advanced to the end of Grade 6 and into the beginning of Grade 7. Now in Grade 8, Maja is working at grade level and achieving good marks in all of her subjects.

“The Reading Foundation and their programs completely changed her life,” says Jessica, who enrolled her younger daughter Anna in the Discover Reading program to strengthen her already satisfactory reading skills.

Maja Irwin and her family

Maja is a voracious reader these days, and Jessica says she always ensures there’s a healthy supply of books in the house. She and Darren did not experience difficulty learning to read when they were children, and it was difficult for them to watch their daughter struggle. Jessica advises parents who are noticing that their child is struggling with reading and literacy to get help as early as possible.

“There’s nothing we like more than watching her curled up reading. It’s beautiful,” Jessica says. “The Reading Foundation changed the way she learns; it changed her attitude towards life. All of the success and confidence she got from all that she learned there, it’s just the best thing we’ve ever done for her.”

If you can relate to the Irwin family’s story and think your child would benefit from extra assistance with their reading, literacy and math skills, click here to learn more about The Reading Foundation’s enrolment process.

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