Back to School '23, Interlude Episode 3

Growing up with dyslexia

In this episode, in honor of Dyslexia Awareness Month, we highlight Kareem Weaver’s daughter Margo and nephew Elijah—both of whom learned they had dyslexia later in life. After many struggles in school, Margo was diagnosed with dyslexia in high school; Elijah was diagnosed with dyslexia only while he was incarcerated. Margo and Elijah discuss the impact of their diagnoses as Kareem reflects on their stories and shares lessons learned for families and caregivers. Margo and Elijah also share their advice for educators and other young people about types of dyslexia.

Meet our guest(s):

Kareem Weaver

Kareem Weaver is a co-founder and executive director of FULCRUM, which partners with stakeholders to improve reading results for students. He is the Oakland NAACP’s second vice president and chair of its education committee; his advocacy is featured in the film The Right to Read. Mr. Weaver previously served as New Leaders for New Schools’ executive director of the Western Region and was an award-winning teacher and administrator. He has an undergraduate degree from Morehouse College and a master’s in Clinical-Community Psychology from the University of South Carolina. Mr. Weaver believes in the potential of all students, the brotherhood of man, and the importance of service above self. His educational heroine for literacy instruction is the late Marva Collins.

Margaret “Margo” Malaika Weaver

Margo Weaver had unplugged from school and retreated into the corners of her environment until her diagnosis of dyslexia helped her make sense of things. She went from being on academic probation to regularly landing on the Honor Roll and Dean’s List. She became a two-time California All-State Softball player who now attends and plays for Bowie State University (MD), where she studies Digital Art Animation. She can be seen in the documentary, The Right to Read.

Elijah Valencia

Elijah Valencia’s story is triumphant. It’s a testament to the power of perseverance and an indictment of systems intended to help young people prepare for society. Without the ability to read well, Elijah’s life went off-track. While incarcerated, he was diagnosed with dyslexia and given the support needed to develop his reading skills. Upon release, he earned an associate’s degree and has become a youth counselor and hotel manager. He’s also started a family.

Meet our host, Susan Lambert

Susan Lambert is the Chief Academic Officer of Elementary Humanities at Amplify, and the host of Science of Reading: The Podcast. Her career has been focused on creating high-quality learning environments using evidence-based practices. Susan is a mom of four, a grandma of four, a world traveler, and a collector of stories.

As the host of Science of Reading: The Podcast, Susan explores the increasing body of scientific research around how reading is best taught. As a former classroom teacher, administrator, and curriculum developer, Susan is dedicated to turning theory into best practices that educators can put right to use in the classroom, and to showcasing national models of reading instruction excellence.


"It made me realize I wasn’t the problem; something was wrong with me. I just had a little bump in the road that was making it just a little bit harder for me.” —Margo Weaver
“It shouldn’t take having to go to jail to get what you need to learn how to read. That’s the bottom of it.” —Kareem Weaver
“Just try to take a deep breath in and ask questions.” —Elijah Valencia
“We just wanted answers and to know what's going on, because I know she's brilliant. I know she's smart.” —Kareem Weaver
“Even when they were trying to help me … it's like they were expecting me to be learning at everybody else's pace.” —Elijah Valencia
“Real talk as a parent: We got to own up to stuff.” —Kareem Weaver
“When a kid can't read and life gets a hold of you, it's like a cycle. Next thing you know, you find yourself in situations that you never would have imagined.” —Kareem Weaver
“Most parents are overwhelmed and they need an ally in the building.” —Kareem Weaver
“I just wish somebody really kind of sat with me and told me that I wasn't stupid and that I was okay.” —Margo Weaver