Sonya Thomas knew something wasn’t right with her son C.J. He was in first grade and he was struggling with reading. “Something was going on with him, but I could not figure it out,” she said.
Teachers and school officials told her that C.J. was behind but would catch up. They told Sonya to read to him at home. But she did read to him. C.J. liked the Veggie Tales stories and “The Big Friendly Giant” by Roald Dahl. His older sister read the Goosebumps books to him.
C.J. went to Amqui Elementary, a public school in Nashville, Tennessee, where 80 percent of the students were Black or Hispanic and almost all of them were from low-income families. Test scores show most children in the school were struggling with reading. But Sonya didn’t know that. She sent C.J. to Amqui because she liked the school and it’s where her best friend’s son went; her friend picked the kids up after school because Sonya worked late as a nurse.
C.J. is the youngest of Sonya’s four kids. The three older ones had no trouble learning to read but something was different with C.J. “I started asking myself, does he have a learning disability?” She sent a handwritten note to the school, requesting that he be tested. Records show the school didn’t do it.