IDA Ontario is an entirely volunteer-run charity, and everything we do is made possible by our members and volunteers. We are a dynamic group of individuals from across the country drawn together by a shared passion for supporting individuals with dyslexia and fighting for every person's right to read. We've created this series of member profiles to showcase the people behind IDA Ontario and celebrate the work of our long-time members and dedicated volunteers.
Martha Kovack, OCT, B.A., B.Ed., M.Ed.
The early 2000s...
Tell us a bit about yourself:
It is not so much that I have a passion for reading, but for freedom. I want all children to have equal and efficient access to print so that they may:
- Keep up with the curriculum in school;
- Be spared the emotional suffering of struggling with the printed word; and
- Have the freedom to choose what they want to do when they grow up.
To this end, I have spent the past 30 years supporting children, families, and educators as a:
- Primary and special education teacher (1990-1998);
- Early Literacy Specialist with the Ontario early years system (2002-2018);
- Orton-Gillingham and structured literacy teacher and teacher-trainer (2009-present);
- Founder and CEO of Sound Readers (1998-present);
- Creator and producer of Crazy Cards – card games that help children link the sounds, spellings, and meanings of words through a fun game (1998-present);
- Early Childhood Education Language Arts college sessional lecturer (2018-present); and
- Volunteer with the International Dyslexia Association (present).
For more information about my education and experiences, please visit www.soundreaders.com
How did you first become interested in dyslexia and reading instruction?
In my first 6 weeks of teaching back in 1990. Five out of twenty of my GRADE TWO students still did not have a complete grasp of how the alphabet worked. I was taught to offer them fun themes and good quality literature and to write with them every day. I was taught that they would all happily and joyfully join in.
They did not. They could not. And I did not think that this was fair. They seemed every bit as capable as the other children. There had to be a better way.
Tells us about your volunteer work with IDA Ontario:
I am now a volunteer as a Mentor with one of IDA Ontario’s new Learning Circles for Teachers. These Learning Circles are a way that we can start to collaborate to increase awareness about structured literacy and to provide support for those who are curious about how to put the research into practice in their schools.
What advice do you have for someone who is new to learning about dyslexia?
The first thing that I always suggest is to review the ONTARIO branch of the International Dyslexia Association’s website. This website is the most comprehensive website around – even more so than the International IDA site. It is a great place to start. I would also suggest keeping in mind that although what we know about supporting children with dyslexia is critical to their success, it is also extremely valuable for ALL students (albeit, not as intensive).
Do you have a favourite book or resource that you would like to share with our community?
- LetsGetReadingRight.com is a website I created where I place everything that I hear about or know about learning to read.
- Crazy Cards & Structured Literacy Training: https://www.soundreaders.ca/
In your opinion, what would an ideal world look like for individuals with dyslexia?
In an ideal world, people with dyslexia would - like all children - be surrounded by high-quality literature and conversations from birth, supported by warm and engaging interactions with caregivers. All children would then enter kindergarten with a love of reading and a sense of belonging, engagement, well-being, and the confidence and ability to express themselves using language, their bodies, and materials. In kindergarten, knowledgeable teachers would begin structured literacy within playful and inquiry-based learning environments. Kindergarten teachers would provide screening for all children, and more intensive (yet light-hearted) support for children with language difficulties – particularly phonological awareness. All children would then enter grade one with a strong foundation of sound-letter connections, or well on their way, and students with dyslexia would be under the careful attention and support of knowledgeable teachers and resource teachers working with all children inside of the general classroom. Grade two and three teachers would continue to provide playful and motivating structured literacy lessons for all, and support students with dyslexia in the classroom with the help of resource teachers. By the end of grade three, students with dyslexia would barely know - or not even know - that they had it.