Tonight, I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the new HBO documentary “The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia.” The event took place at the Sundance Kabuki Theatre at Fillmore and Post (very convenient to Convent!), and it was great to see the filmmakers and to hear a little bit about their process.
There are some terrific takeaways from this film (not the least of which is Convent senior Olivia Barreto appearing during the credits with a huge grin on her face!). Several prominent people with dyslexia are featured: entrepreneur and gazillionaire Richard Branson, investment guru Charles Schwab, prominent lawyer David Boies, lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom, and more. Each discuss their struggles with school, their difficulties with reading, and the many people who told them, as children, that they would never amount to much. The film didn’t dwell on these struggles too much, though. Instead, its tone emphasizes the joy and triumphs of what it means to think as differently as people with dyslexia do.
David Boies had the most hopeful message, I thought: the older you get, the better it’ll be. Life is less and less about reading quickly and taking tests; it’s more about being able to see the big picture and come up with creative solutions. Dyslexic people can do that because they’ve learned persistence: they’ve survived school because they learned how to fail, as Gavin Newsom pointed out at one point, and they know how to bounce back.
The film will screen on HBO later this month, and I highly, highly encourage you to check it out. Its tone is overwhelming positive, its visuals playful and inventive without being imprecise or misleading, and its cited on-screen experts true leaders in their fields. Several of the parents interviewed in the film talked about how they wished they’d had more information on dyslexia when their children were young, and that more schools could understand what a dyslexia diagnosis means. My goal is to help make Convent a place that “gets it” when it comes to dyslexia and other learning differences. My hope is that this film and others like it can influence our culture to “get it” too.
Probably my favorite element of this documentary was that it heavily featured one of the world’s leaders on dyslexia research, Dr. Sally Shaywitz of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Shaywitz at a private event that PEN held in her honor last spring. I’ve seen her speak in person three times, and each time I leave fired up, ready to stand up and cheer. Here’s a quick selection from the film’s website: I hope it gives you a sense of Dr. Shaywitz’s work, the film’s tone, and the growing world of hope and advocacy surrounding dyslexia today. Enjoy.