Peggy Stern, the Academy Award–winning filmmaker, avoided telling people she had dyslexia until she was in her 40s. That’s because she was ashamed of her reading issues and inability to spell.
Wanting to spare other kids from those negative feelings, Stern founded Dyslexiaville. It’s a media platform with original content aimed at reducing the stigma of learning differences and boosting kids’ self-esteem. The channel streams for free on YouTube.
Anchoring the Dyslexiaville lineup is the Super d! Show, a playful children’s series broken up into quick episodes mostly under six minutes long. Set in a fictional city, Super d! Show is similar to the PBS show The Electric Company. It features a group of close-knit grade-schoolers who band together to solve problems and support each other.
The kids are confronted with real-life obstacles related to learning differences. For instance, in one episode, an insensitive teacher mocks a student for not being able to sound out words properly. In another, one of the kids must find his way through an urban park, even as he struggles with directions and telling left from right.
In the episode below, the kids share what they say when questioned by other students about what happens when they get pulled out of class. “Polish the truth,” one kid says about resource room. “Make it sound amazing.”
A major draw of the Super d! Show is its undeniable authenticity. Each of the child actors in the show has dyslexia in real life. Most of the members of the production team, from the director to the screenwriter, have dyslexia as well.
Stern says that when the cast rehearses episodes, the child actors regularly give input and change lines to reflect their real-life experiences. Two upcoming episodes were even written by a 10-year-old cast member.
Dyslexiaville was launched in September 2016. The channel currently has six episodes of the Super d! Show, with 11 more on the way. There are also plans for a new show targeting older kids, as well as an interactive program that lets viewers share their own stories.
For Stern, Dyslexiaville is the result of 10 years of development work—and a passion for helping kids with dyslexia. Originally, she considered drawing on her filmmaking background to make documentaries on dyslexia. But she quickly realized that while documentaries might interest adults like her, “kids would be deeply bored.”
So she switched gears and set out to make a children’s series. Since the release of the Super d! Show, many parents have reached out to her about how Dyslexiaville is helping their children in school.
“That’s a dream come true to me,” she says. “That I could positively affect children’s lives in that way.”
Check out 10 TV and film characters with dyslexia. Learn about books that feature characters with dyslexia or ADHD. And see a list of documentaries that feature dyslexia.
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About the author
Michael Bahler, JD is an attorney and writer living in New Jersey, and the father of three.