Letters are Characters builds networks of parents/caregivers, librarians, educators and community members who can work together to create literacy solutions that honor all learning styles in order to overcome the American Reading Crisis, one community at a time. 

 

Literacy is a basic right and providing it is a community responsibility. 

Letters are Characters helps kids reach their highest potential. We aim to reduce suffering by demystifying reading acquisition. Our program is play-based and joyful.

 

Staff Bios

CEO and Founder - Caroline Wilcox Ugurlu

Caroline Wilcox Ugurlu, (Ph.D., Wilson Dyslexia Practitioner) has spent the last six years studying reading including the neurological processes involved in reading and the sociological, psychological and cultural aspects of reading acquisition and its opposite - failure to acquire reading fluency. The research resulted in Letters are Characters.  She is passionate about the importance of reading and is driven to create programs that increase awareness  about how reading acquisition happens.  She wants all students, including struggling readers/those working to overcome dyslexia, to have fun learning to read while also discovering how their beautifully unique brains work. She remembers learning to read being very mysterious and learning to spell being nearly impossible. 

 

"Once, when I was in third grade, I was asked to go to the blackboard and write 'the lovely puppy'... I wrote 'the lonely poopy'. The class laughed and I did too but I remember wondering how people  spelled so easily and read aloud so fluently. Reading aloud was embarrassing for me for many years.  I understand now so I created solutions to help parents and children.  As a mother and a  Library Assistant with a Focus on Early Literacy at Oliver Wolcott Library in Litchfield, now, reading aloud to children is one of my favorite things in this life. Researching and connecting the dots to create literacy solutions is my passion.

 

When it comes to reading acquisition, I have seen too much needless suffering.  We know how to fix this.  Nearly every child can learn to read at an average or better level if taught so that they can learn. Reading acquisition is independent of intelligence.  My programs are about creating awareness and understanding that builds safety nets in communities so that children learning to read reach their highest potential and do not suffer. Our children need to read well and deeply to navigate the complex world that we live in and find solutions for pressing problems." 

 

Content Development Consultant - Annamari Curtiss

 

Annamari received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Disorders and her Master of Arts in Speech Language Pathology from the University of Connecticut. She is a member of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association and maintains her Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC). Annamari holds her Department of Public Health License from the State of Connecticut and her Initial Educator Certification from the Connecticut State Department of Education. Annamari has completed additional continuing education in the area of motor speech disorders, including training in the Kaufman Speech to Language Protocol, as well as administration of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule.

Annamari has over 18 years of experience working in a variety of settings, including the public school setting, the CT Birth to Three System, as well as specialized clinical settings.  She has a specialized interest and focus on the contributions of language to literacy acquisition.  She believes that the relationship between language and literacy is reciprocal in nature and that explicit instruction is crucial for reading success.  Annamari was the recipient of her school district’s award for Service Excellence.

 

"When I see children struggle to read, there is so much pain.  There is shame and fear.  When we talk through the science and solutions, and get to work in communities, the effects are life-changing. I am called to this mission for deeply personal reasons.  I have seen how a few individuals committed best practices in literacy can change the outlook of communities and help in profound ways." 

 

Designer and Artistic Consultant - Karen Grilli

I graduated from Providence College with an English Major. After working a few years, I went back to school for graphic design at RI School of Design. I enjoy dance, travel, and photography.  I also love reading and see it as a way to explore new worlds and learn new things.  

 

"My children were both early readers. They used to love the bathtub alphabet letters that stuck to the sides of the tub. And also bathtub “chalk” where we could write on the walls. We used lots of sidewalk chalk too!  Our favorite beginner book was “Hop on Pop” a perfect starter book for early readers."

 

Content Development Consultant - Jamie Jackson Spannhake

 

Jamie Jackson Spannhake is a writer and certified coach helping parents and caregivers adjust their mindsets and calm their anxieties so they can focus on helping their children succeed. Her work with clients focuses on time and mind management tools and skills, and is based upon the principles in her book, The Lawyer, the Lion, & the Laundry: Three Hours to Finding Your Calm in the Chaos, available at JamieSpannhake.com. She received her certification a health coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City. She was a practicing attorney for nearly 20 years, until she left the legal profession to follow her passion of helping other create meaningful and manageable lives they enjoy. Her work has appeared in print and online, including in Financevents, Law Practice magazine, SmartSocial.com, AttorneyatWork.com, Ladies in Business, and Answering Legal. She has also appeared on numerous podcasts, including Dyslexia Mom Life, Fit to Practice, Thought Leadership Podcast, The Former Lawyer, XL Legal, and The Happy Lawyer. In addition to her professional endeavors, she mothers a wonderful and happy ten-year-old daughter who has dyslexia, successfully co-parents with her ex-husband, loves all dogs and two cats, and plays tennis regularly.

 

“I watched my very intelligent and happy seven-year-old struggle daughter to read, sensing her frustration as her mind moved much faster than her brain would allow her to decode. Once we received a dyslexia diagnosis and began effective remediation (including Letters are Characters), it was pure joy to see her relief at finally figuring out how to read without immense difficulty. The journey from struggle to success is challenging for child and parent alike, but together, positive change is possible. That’s why I enjoy offering tools and techniques that allow both child and caregiver to calm their fears and achieve a mindset that promotes success.”

 

Reach Jamie at jamie@spannhake.com

 

Spanish Content Development Consultant/Translator - Abby Rivera

 

I am a bilingual professional with 20+ years of experience advocating for youth and families.  I strive to improve communication between schools, families, teachers, and other stakeholders.  My role is to foster these connections and the parent-child connection.   I received my Bachelors of Science, in Child Development and Family Sciences from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
 
My philosophy of education centers around the need for parent involvement and their role in student achievement. Literacy is paramount in the success of a child in any setting. Letters are Characters was a pleasure to work with, and a great tool to support literacy, a home environment that encourages learning and exploration, as well as encouraging parents to have an active role in their child's education.