The Lexia Story: Our World Begins with Reading
When Bob Lemire founded Lexia Learning Systems in 1984, it was a personalmission. Bob wasn't a reading specialst or researcher. He wasn't looking for a new career; he was already a well-respected investment advisor and landuse consultant. But what Bob Lemire did have, was a son, struggling with reading.
Lemire's son, Bo, was a smart, well-behaved student in kindergarten through 3rd 9rade. But when he reached 4th grade, Bo wasn't performing as well. His teachers became frustrated and so did Bo. Everyone told him to pay more attention, to work harder and to concentrate more, but Bo was already doing all those things.
In search of an answer, Lemire took Bo to his friend Dr. Edwin Cole's house. Cole was a noted neurologist and head of the Reading Clinic at the Massachusetts General Hospital as well as the founder of several schools for dyslexics. He had been a long time colleague of Dr. Samuel T. Orton and Anna Gillingham, principal creators of the respected reading system that carries their name.
After testing, Bo was diagnosed as developmentally dyslexic (slow to acquire reading skills) and in need of Orton-Gillingham tutoring. Lemire says he and his wife, Ginny, were heartened by the diagnosis, "Finally, we knew what the problem was, and we were able to explain it to Bo. He no longer saw himself as its cause and knew that with help he would overcome it."
Bo received 1-on-1 tutoring and shortly thereafter he was the lead in a Christmas play. Bo's battle wasn't over, but he was doing well again. Bo also benefited from 2 year's of schooling at the Greenwood School, a small private Vermont school for dyslexic boys.
Lemire had been moved by his son's success in overcoming his reading difficulties, but realized along the way that many other children had reading difficulties and most of them did not have the resources and guidance his family had to help Bo.
Lemire and Dr. Cole began to discuss the issue with neighbor Dr. Littleton Meeks, an expert in technology. Despite the fact that computers were still in their infancy, the 3 decided to organize a company that would use computer technology to create skill development software programs that could reach all types of students experiencing reading difficulties at a low cost. The new company was able to get started with modest financing, including 2 grants obtained by Dr. Meeks from the National Institutes of Health and Child Development. Although it was clear to the founders that computer-assisted reading and assessment programs were efficacious, it took many more years and resources to develop a product with the correct scope and sequencing. Lexia struggled to find private ways and funds to continue the development effort.
"Times were tough but when you get touched by something, you respond," says Lemire. "When your boy is suffering and someone comes along and makes him whole, you say 'wow' and then you think 'is there any way to bring this to other people,' Once you are a steward of something as hopeful and promising as Lexia's approach to reading, you just can 't quit," Lexia Learning Systems is now one of the best-known and respected reading software programs in the country. Lexia programs are used in more than 12,000 schools internationally. The company's reading programs help on level, at risk, struggling, and ESL students learn to read. Many children also use Lexia at home to hasten their reading development. Lexia can also be found in adult education centers and prisons to help adults who struggle to read.
The Lexia Story
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