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Sonja Banks

Chief Executive Officer
Of The International Dyslexia Association

IMPROVING THE LIVES OF THOSE BORN WITH DYSLEXIA

Sonja Banks brings over 25 years of experience in nonprofit administration and A diverse background in organizational leadership, capacity building and human relations to The International Dyslexia Association (IDA). Banks shares her devotion to increasing the awareness surrounding the complex issues brought on by dyslexia, a learning disability that makes it more difficult to learn to read.

MONARCH MAGAZINE: Can you start by talking about what your organization does?

SONJA BANKS: The IDA is a nonprofit organization that has been in existence for over 70 years. Our purpose is to create a future for all individuals who struggle with dyslexia and other related read- ing differences so that they may have richer, more robust lives.

We do that by working to provide access to the tools and resources they need to help them learn to read.
About three years ago, the IDA community expanded this mission and decided to shift toward helping all struggling readers by focusing on general and special education in our schools. So our new motto is “Until Everyone Can Read.”

MONARCH MAGAZINE: Have you found that some Black families are hesitant to accept a dyslexia diagnosis?

SONJA BANKS: Well, yes, in some cases. But, it’s deeper than that. I believe that many Black families are unaware of what dyslexia is, meaning you know that your child is having difficulties reading or learning, but you are not quite sure what the root of the problem may be. So the real root of the problem is not rejection, but rather a lack of awareness and education.

People with dyslexia can thrive and lead very productive lives. There are so many successful dyslexics. But the ones that have achieved success had a strong support base (families, teachers, advocates and others that helped them in their journey). So, we have to do a better job at raising awareness and educating our communities about dyslexia and about how to get the help and tools needed to overcome the negative impacts of it.
When we know better then we do better. Then more Black families will accept it and speak up.

MONARCH MAGAZINE: The late, great icon Kobe Bryant was well known for his athletic prowess, leadership, work ethic and philanthropic endeavors. He also advocated for individuals diagnosed with dyslexia. Why don’t more people know about these efforts?

SONJA BANKS: I believe it was after Kobe retired that he spoke about his reading and learning difficulties when he was young- er. Although I don’t think he was ever officially diagnosed with dyslexia, many attributed some of his symptoms to it. Because of this, Kobe championed the need to improve our literacy rates and advocate for struggling readers including those that may be impacted by dyslexia.

MONARCH MAGAZINE: What do you hope to accomplish with the Mosaic Kobe Bryant Art Sweepstakes?

SONJA BANKS: First and foremost: We are aiming to raise awareness about dyslexia and to raise funds. We are so thankful to Loring Cornish for donating this piece, and we are hoping that it yields the funds we need to continue to help our children.

Now more than ever we must step up. COVID has changed the way many of our children must learn, with many moving to distance learning. For struggling readers, learning its more difficult be- cause they need that one to one learning assistance.

So we want to do what we can. With the funds raised we want to:

  1. Help families receive the technology they need (computers, wifi, software, etc.)
  2. Provide scholarships for online tutoring
  3. Provide parents with advocacy services
  4. Help teachers learn new and up-to-date teaching instruction.