Sue De Lapa

Union Buster: The News-Press has reportedly hired Michael Zinser, a Tennessee-based lawyer formerly with the anti-union firm King/Ballew. “He touts himself as a specialist in busting newspaper unions,” according to my source. He has reportedly become involved in the current federal case against the NP for alleged unfair labor practices and is said to have offered seminars a while back to the paper on collective bargaining matters.

Out of Print: The News-Press‘s longtime Sunday book reviewer and its two book page columnists have resigned over the paper’s recent smear of former editor Jerry Roberts. Reviewer Lin Rolens called it a matter of standing up for one’s conscience. Susan Miles Gulbransen, who quit with Fred Klein, told of her pride at being a regular book columnist. But, she added, “Santa Barbara is home to CALM (Child Abuse Listening and Meditation), which makes reporting such a serious allegation based on suspicion, not fact, and front-page news even more reprehensible to me.” [Editor’s note: Ms. Gulbransen was named 2005 Woman of the Year by the Santa Barbara Foundation.]

Sue De Lapa

Prowling: Santa Barbara and Montecito have all these prize homes and gardens, but rarely does the public get past the gates. Thanks to groups like the women’s board of the Community Arts Music Association and Pearl Chase Society, the gates open. Sunday I prowled three “hidden gardens,” a benefit for CAMA. An added attraction was the auction of birdhouses – yep, these creative homes for our feathered friends raise bucks for music education for the young. The bird condo Sue and I entered raised a few hundred bucks and Barry Berkus bought my beloved Tahitian cap for $100 and donated the money to the cause. TV reporter John Palminteri, decked out in a vivid Hawaiian shirt, was auctioneer. The Pearl Chase Society home tour is May 20. (Sue’s a docent.) Info at (805) 961-3938. (The same day, The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is sponsoring a fund-raiser, a tour of five exclusive Montecito gardens. Each has “a unique sacred space” element. Info at (805) 967-5741.

Born to Read: I love to read. You probably do too. But what if we were born with eyes and minds that twisted words and made reading a frustrating, near-impossible challenge?

Going to elementary school in Goleta, Kristen Reed knew something was wrong. She knew she was smart but somehow she didn’t enjoy reading. “It was so difficult.”

After a few pages of a text, the words “started not making sense.” Fortunately, reading specialist Grace Wilson caught the problem: Kristen was dyslexic.

Allyson Crowe, now an 18-year-old senior at Santa Barbara High School, was doing fine in math and science in elementary school but for some reason struggled when it came to reading.

In first grade, when it was silent reading time, “I could never follow the story or understand what I was reading,” she told me. “I was really bad at spelling.” It was frustrating. Allyson, unaware that she was dyslexic, managed good grades by working extra-hard.

Sadly, many dyslexic people are not diagnosed in time, become frustrated in school and drop out. For some, it leads to a life of crime and prison.

Kristen felt that the most she could aspire to was to attend Santa Barbara City College, but not beyond. “I knew I was smart and had talent but there was a lot standing in my way.” That included cerebral palsy and breast cancer. But now, at 34, and having survived cancer, “Every day to me is a gift. My life has been a blessing.”

Both Kristen and Allyson say they owe a lot to Goleta’s Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic. Since La Colina Junior High, Kristen has been listening to texts recorded by volunteers there. While earlier, “I had in some ways given up,” learning became enjoyable. “I was determined to be the best that I could be.”

After San Marcos High, still using RFB&D tapes, Kristen went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in sociology at Westmont College and a master’s in human development at Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena.

Now she’s director of the after-school program and summer camp at Isla Vista School, serving about 100 children a day, with a staff of six. These days she “reads” commercial audio books, but after visiting the recent RFB&D annual Record-a-thon, she noticed some texts she’d like to borrow.

“There is no way I’d be where I am without Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic,” Kristen told me.

While struggling through several elementary schools here, “I always managed to get decent grades because I worked extra, extra hard,” Allyson said. “It was very frustrating. I took two hours to do what other kids did in 20 minutes.”

“I have a lot of self-confidence and was good at math and science and sports. I just felt that [reading] was just one thing I wasn’t good at.” Intelligent as Allyson obviously was, she couldn’t pass the test to qualify for top-student GATE classes at Santa Barbara Junior High.

“But they put me in and I got straight A’s” because of her work ethic. In seventh grade, her mother, who is also dyslexic, had Allyson tested and dyslexia was diagnosed.

Using books on tape from RFB&D made a big difference in more readily understanding what she was reading. The straight-As continued. At Santa Barbara High, she’s on the varsity soccer and tennis teams and heading for Boulder University in Colorado, where she plans to study art, science and math.

But one thing is certain: Allyson says she’ll definitely continue with books from RFB&D, where these days volunteers now read books onto CDs instead of tape. For information about volunteering, call (805) 681-0531.

(Barney Brantingham can be reached at or (805) 965-5205. He is a staff columnist for the Santa Barbara Independent and writes online columns on Tuesdays and Fridays and a print column on Thursdays.)


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