“In Grade 9, a week before school started, I was told I would never get my high school diploma. That crushed me. I gave up and didn’t see the purpose of going to school if I wasn’t going to graduate. I believed I was not capable because that’s what I was told.”
I’d like you to meet Vikki Pike, an 18-year old girl from Uxbridge, Ontario with dyslexia and a self-declared “Slippster”, someone who has slipped through the cracks of the education system. Until a couple of years ago, Vikki couldn’t read at all. She couldn’t read instructions on medication or recipes, signs or directions, and she couldn’t read the birthday cards she received for her 16th birthday.
I had an opportunity to ask Vikki some questions about her experience being a “Slippster”, learning to read, using her voice to advocate for others like her and achieving some milestone goals.
Alicia Smith: What has learning to read meant to you?
Vikki Pike: Learning to read has opened up so many doors and given me so many more opportunities. Finding out I was dyslexic was the best thing that ever could have happened to me. Before, I thought I would never be independent like everybody else. Once I found out I was dyslexic, I realized that I could learn just about anything and that I could learn to read too. All I need is access to the appropriate reading programs, opportunities and support to continue to learn to read and to meet my educational goals.
“Once I realized I could learn, there was no stopping me! I realized I could learn more things; I really can be anything I want to be when I grow up.”
Reading to me was like a foreign language. Today, it’s my language. I can unconsciously and sometimes effortlessly read things around me and that is super cool. I want to read everything and anything. I want to be reading at a Grade 7 or 8 level by the end of this school year, in spite of Covid-19. I am working hard to get to university so I can become a teacher and help students just like me.
AS: You participated in our first annual Read October campaign this year and reached a big milestone for yourself in your reading goals. Can you tell us about it?
VP: I read the book Wonder in one month! It was the first novel I ever read and I loved it. At one point in my life, I never thought I’d ever be able to read a book and certainly not a big one! After reading the novel, it was like a weight was lifted off of me, the stress of never being able to do it before was gone forever. I couldn’t imagine a greater opportunity than to support IDA Ontario by reading my first novel for their Read October campaign. I’m currently reading Road to Avonlea and am looking forward to my next book, To Sir, With Love, because it’s one of my grandma’s favourite books.
AS: You coined the term “Slippster” to describe yourself and others who have slipped through the cracks of the education system, including other members of your family. Can you tell us a bit more about that? What have you learned through this journey?
VP: I feel for others who have this struggle and I want to save other Slippsters. Nobody should be left behind because of their learning differences, especially when a solution exists. My journey in learning to read has affected my entire family in wonderful ways. I have inspired my family by showing them we are capable and by encouraging them to work harder and never give up, never believe they can’t do something because of their learning differences.
If I could go back, I would have spoken up sooner, I would have learned to read sooner. I have learned to believe in myself and to advocate for myself and others.
AS: Speaking of advocacy, you had the opportunity to share your story as part of the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s (OHRC) Right to Read Inquiry. That’s where I first met you. What has it meant to you to be involved and have your voice be heard?
VP: Right now, the OHRC Right to Read Inquiry is inspiring students and parents to fight for change and never give up. It’s amazing that they are trying to get reading programs implemented in school so that young kids will not end up like me, having to start Grade 9 as an illiterate student. I hope one day soon there will be a regular intervention plan for all students from JK to high school, and that all students will have the opportunity to learn to read. It is the kids’ right to read and it is our society’s responsibility to make it happen. I am happy to share my story and I hope it helps to get the desperately needed changes to properly support all students with learning differences.
“Everybody deserves to learn to read.”
Vikki is not alone. Dyslexia affects 5 to 20% of the population and is the most common cause of difficulties with learning to read, write and spell. The International Dyslexia Association exists to educate, advocate and support individuals with dyslexia, their families and educators. This past year, much of our focus was on advocacy – calling for change in the education system to ensure early screening and intervention, so that no other students have the same experience as Vikki.
You can help. Join us today by making a donation to support IDA Ontario as we work to create a future for all individuals who struggle with dyslexia and other reading differences.
Thank you for making a difference.
All the best to you and yours this holiday season,
President, International Dyslexia Association Ontario
P.S. Remember that all gifts made by December 31st are eligible for a tax receipt for this year.