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Research in Pediatrics & Neonatology

High Prevalence of Dyslexia in African- American Primary School Children

Laura Cassidy1*, Bennett A Shaywitz2 and Sally E Shaywitz2

1Dyslexia Resource Center, Louisiana Key Academy, USA

2Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, Department of Pediatrics, Yale University School of Medicine, USA

*Corresponding author: Laura Cassidy, Dyslexia Resource Center, Louisiana Key Academy, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA

Submission: February 09, 2024; Published: February 16, 2024

DOI: 10.31031/rpn.2023.07.000679

ISSN: 2577-9200
Volume8 Issue1


Evidence from several lines of investigation indicates that large numbers of African- American students with dyslexia may be overlooked in schools. Dyslexia is the most common neurodevelopmental disorder in children-epidemiological studies indicate that dyslexia is highly prevalent, affecting one in five [1,2], with boys and girls equally impacted [3]. Since its first description over a century ago [4] and now in recent United States federal legislation, dyslexia is defined as “an unexpected difficulty in reading for an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader, most commonly caused by a difficulty in the phonological processing (the appreciation of the individual sounds of spoken language), which affects the ability of an individual to speak, read and spell [5]”. The unexpected nature of dyslexia is supported by empirical data which indicate that in typical readers IQ and reading are linked while in dyslexic readers IQ and reading diverge [2,6]. Functional brain imaging studies from laboratories around the world demonstrate a neural signature for dyslexia: An inefficient functioning of those neural systems responsible for automatic fluent reading located in posterior regions of the left hemisphere [7,8]. Perhaps most importantly, we now know that the achievement gap between typical and dyslexic readers is evident as early as first grade and persists into adult life [9].

In a recent publication [10] we used a teacher completed dyslexia screener to first screen children in grades kindergarten through second grade in two inner city schools. Of the children screened, 90%, were African-American and 93% of the children screened were considered disadvantaged. Children were screened for dyslexia using an evidence-based screener [11] which follows the criteria for dyslexia screening in federal law 5. Almost half (49.2%) screened as at risk for and on more detailed testing the vast majority of those who screened as at risk were found to be dyslexic. Still another line of investigation indicating that large numbers of African American children with dyslexia are going undiagnosed comes from The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), data often referred to as the “Nation’s Report Card”. In the most recent iteration [12], fourth grade reading scores found 27% of white students reading below basic compared to 56% of black fourth graders. Good evidence indicates that students reading below basic on NAEP correspond to students with dyslexia [12]. Regardless of the underlying explanation for the high prevalence of reading difficulties in African-American children, our recent report coupled with the several decades of NAEP data provided good evidence that that large numbers of African-American students may have dyslexia and are currently not diagnosed and are being overlooked in school. These data mandate early screening (kindergarten to grade 3) for dyslexia and early implementation of evidence-based interventions for those children found to be at risk for dyslexia if the reading gap between African American children and their white peers is to be narrowed, and even eliminated.


Support for the work reported in this article was provided by: The Dyslexia Research Foundation and The Seedlings Foundation.


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© 2024 Laura Cassidy. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and build upon your work non-commercially.