One in five people are affected by dyslexia, making it difficult for them to read or interpret words. Tutor Eau Claire helps South Carolina children who struggle with this learning disability to read and prepares them for the future.

Tutor Eau Claire was founded 20 years ago by Tracey Ely when she first invited children in her neighborhood to do their homework at her kitchen table. Surrounded by snacks and assignments, Ely formed a strong bond with the children seated at her table.

One young boy in particular who lived in Ely’s neighborhood was diagnosed with dyslexia and she began working with him. He currently has earned his high school diploma and his undergraduate degree at Newberry College and is working on obtaining his MBA in Business Management.

The organization has since grown tremendously, having moved from Ely’s kitchen table to working with public schools in the area to now their own facility provided by Eau Claire Presbyterian Church where they tutor 26 children this year. Sisters of Charity gave Ely one of her first grants to help her move and establish her organization.

“We’re teaching them to fish, not just feeding them for a day,” said Ely.  “A dyslexic student will look at those words over and over but it will not sink in unless someone teaches it to them.”

Unfortunately there are few programs available to families with limited financial resources who have a child with dyslexia, according to Ely. Private tutors that have the training to teach a student with dyslexia can cost anywhere from 50 to 100 dollars an hour. There are three schools in South Carolina specifically for students who have dyslexia, but all cost upwards of 18,000 dollars.

There are specific classes a person must take in order to be able to teach a student with dyslexia, but it is not required in South Carolina for teachers to have this training. Tutor Eau Claire offers workshops during the summer for volunteers and teachers who want to learn the Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching a student with dyslexia.

Tutor Eau Claire knows there is a demand for their tutors and works to accommodate every family that they can. Depending on the income of the family, lessons can cost anywhere in the range of 5 to 30 dollars.

Tracey Ely and her fellow tutors are changing children’s lives and preparing them for a better and brighter future. They are making a stand against a cycle that makes children with dyslexia go without the help they need and remain undiagnosed until high school. Thanks to Tutor Eau Claire, children with dyslexia are being reminded that they can conquer anything they set their mind to. Including reading books.

“Kids fall through the cracks and then they’re told ‘well, wait and see maybe next year they’ll improve.’ That never, never works,” Ely said. “If you don’t help them now, they’ll pay for it later.”