By Brian Biggane
Stacey Roselli didn’t have to look far for potential clients when she opened the Reading Village for children with dyslexia and other language-based problems in Delray Beach in 2014. Seven years and hundreds of success stories later, her center and its program have become an unqualified success.
Roselli, 43, earned a psychology degree at New York University and spent 12 years at the Windward School in Westchester, primarily using the highly regarded Orton-Gillingham approach to learning, which explicitly teaches students the connections between letters and sounds, using sight, hearing, touch and movement.
“I’m so fortunate that when I was young someone told me about it, and that’s all I knew on how to teach reading,” she said. “When I went to NYU the administrators said, ‘I’m sorry, we don’t do it like that.’ I was like, ‘So why did I spend all that money?’”
Roselli’s instincts and experience led her back to the Orton-Gillingham approach, and she hasn’t looked back.
The Reading Village, which serves students from kindergarten to high school, is “so close to bursting, which is a great problem to have. But it’s also sad, because a lot of children need the help.”
Roselli and her husband, Giovanni, a fitness educator and presenter, were still in the process of relocating to South Florida in 2014 when a woman who had heard about her Windward experience asked if she could teach her dyslexic child to read.
“From there, the lawyer of that family said, ‘Can you work with our children? We have four who are dyslexic.’
“And then another mom knew someone. So it’s been so awesome that I’ve been able to help so many kids, and never had to advertise.”
Dyslexia is a neurobiological learning disability characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.
Roselli has co-opted a couple of her longtime associates, Andrea Kaminsky and Ruthanne Mahoney, both career-long educators, to work with the children, as well as four more women who are helping her create reading games, to form a seven-person staff.
“So, it’s 11:30 at night and we’re Zooming each other making sure we’re ready for the next day. So the Village is no longer just Stacey; it’s all of my teammates, and I’m really, really happy,” she said.
Roselli sees the Reading Village as more of a “center” than a school, with much of the teaching done out of members’ homes. Even so, she said, her program has generated so much interest that she has started working virtually with teachers from local schools to help them work with students facing similar challenges.
“It’s so they don’t have to come to me,” she said. “The whole idea is for them to stay in their classroom and get the education they need, without having to spend time after school.”
While the Reading Village is very 21st-century in its approach, it is not unique. The Bilgrav School in West Palm Beach also specializes in students with dyslexia, and there is another such school in south Miami.
The information in the field is constantly expanding, so Roselli has her own village as a member of the International Dyslexia Association and a core group of educators she knows from her time in New York and Connecticut.
“It’s really about sharing knowledge,” she said. “There are people who say they have the background to do this — maybe they take a two-day workshop and say they’re trained, but they’re not. You need experience and you need a mentor. That’s one person trying to help conquer dyslexia, and that’s very hard. So I suppose we are a little unique.”
Roselli is also somewhat unusual in that she has spent her entire 20-year teaching career in that one discipline.
“It gives you an understanding, and you can kind of predict the errors children are going to make.”
The testimonials on thereadingvillage.com overflow with praise for both Roselli and her program.
Susan R. writes that she and her son Josh came across Stacey after he had finished the first grade: “We had nowhere else to turn and we didn’t know what to do. He started working with Stacey through the summer and it was a life-changing experience for all of us.”
While her work keeps her busy, Roselli does have a robust family life with Giovanni, whom she met at the gym, and their daughter, Juliet Rose, 3.
“My family is a big part of who I am,” she said. “I love to cook, and love to go to the beach. If I’m not working, I’m exercising, cooking and with my family.”