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Gina Belafonte Shares Journey With Dyslexia to Students

Updated: 12/04/2013 10:55 PM
Created: 12/04/2013 10:54 PM KSTP.com
By: Jenna Lohse

(ABC 6 News) -- Learning to read and write is tough enough for elementary students as it is. But for kids with a learning disability - like dyslexia - reading can sometimes seem impossible. A special visitor made it out to Harriet Bishop today, who knows all about overcoming those challenges.

Reading and writing are fundamental skills 3rd graders at Harriet Bishop Elementary develop every day. Of course, learning word patterns and prefixes comes easier for some than others.

"I have something called dyslexia,” said Gina Belafonte.

Reading was once a struggle for Gina Belafonte, the daughter of actor and iconic singer Harry Belafonte. Wednesday Gina read to students and shared her story. Coming from a family with three generations of dyslexia, Gina knows that one size doesn't always fit all, when it comes to learning.

"I’m so excited to be at a school that is actually looking at an entire classroom in a way that's giving everyone equal footing and opportunity,” said Belafonte.

With the combination of the Orton-Gillingham approach and a new spelling program called "Words Their Way," Rochester public school students are being taught at different levels based on their needs. "There flexible groups, so those kids can go up and they can stay a little longer if they need a little more help, or go up a little faster if they don't,” said teacher Jane Williams.

"The kids get an opportunity to actually be really young stake holders in what they're learning and how they're learning it,” said Belafonte.

For Gina Belafonte, the idea of an integrated and individualized learning environment is a great one, "This classroom seemed to me like a perfect model for what the possibilities for the rest of the county could be doing,” said Belafonte.

Gina Belafonte will be telling her story at the Rochester International Event Center tonight at 6:30. It's free and open to the public.