Bay-Waveland Schools work to improve reading skills - - The News for South Mississippi

Bay-Waveland Schools work to improve reading skills


The Bay-Waveland School District hopes to improve students' reading skills by identifying their individual reading problems. The school district is now engaged in a year-long study using a method that is getting a lot of attention across the nation.

Fourth grade student Princess McNeely is one of 175 students in the Bay-Waveland School District taking part in the reading study. Tuesday morning was her Irlen screening day.

As part of that screening, she chose the colored lens that makes the words on a piece of paper she was asked to read more comfortable to read.

"What's the hardest thing in school,” asked screener Dr. Jeri Lavigne.

"Reading and math," responded Princess.

Once the 10-year-old student selected her lens colors, her reading skills were put to the test. She read the sentence below without the lens at an extremely slow pace, often stumbling over words.

"Mary was playing alone at the rear of her house. She was waiting."

When she used the Irlen lens to read the sentence, the result were surprising. Her father couldn't believe his ears.

"To see her struggle for so long, I knew she had it in her. I just didn't know how to get it out of her, and just one simple step to get it out of her, it's amazing. Unbelievable," explained her dad, Prince McNeely.

Gov. Phil Bryant was recently diagnosed with Irlen syndrome as well as Lavigne herself.

"I've had my lens for 25 years. There is nothing stupid about me, but there are things I absolutely could not do without my lens. I have several doctorate degrees," said Lavigne.

Irlen syndrome is not an optical problem. It's a problem with the brain's ability to process visual information.

"For some of us, there is just a part of the brain that doesn't process light correctly. Because we don't process light correctly, it can cause distortions on a page, comprehension issues," said Lavigne.

The goal of the study conducted for third and fourth grade students is to improve the students' reading abilities.

"Any student not reading at or above grade level will be retained, and I see the Irlen method as a star fish. It makes a difference one child at a time," said Chairman of the Bay-Waveland School Board Dr. Sherry Ponder.

If you think you might suffer from Irlen Syndrome and would like to take an online pre-screening, click on: or email Lavigne at

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