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Dr. Shawn Robinson set to embark on 135-mile bike ride to raise funds for and awareness of dyslexia


For the third year. the annual Dyslexia Awareness Ride will promote dyslexia awareness while raising money for the Children’s Dyslexia Center here in Madison. This year’s event, a bike ride from Oshkosh to Fitchburg, will take place on Friday, Oct. 7.

Dr. Shawn Robinson, a literacy educator, author, and advocate, is getting set to embark on a 135-mile journey from Oshkosh to Fitchburg. Robinson is partnering up with Wheel & Sprocket, a full-service local bike shop with 12 locations throughout Wisconsin.

Dr. Shawn Robinson (Photo supplied)

“We really want to build community and raise awareness about dyslexia, particularly in the state of Wisconsin. We’re trying to do some good and to give kids hope and let them people see us doing something positive,” Robinson tells Madison365.

Dyslexia is a learning disorder that involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words. Also called a reading disability, dyslexia is a result of individual differences in areas of the brain that process language. It is estimated that approximately 15% of people have dyslexia which equates to over 30 million adults in the United States.

“This ride is not only about the mental health aspect of it, but also about setting your mind to do something and achieving your goals,” Robinson says. “If we’re going to say that we’re going to start this 135-mile journey, we’re going to have some trials and tribulations — we’re going to have hills and winds, tires blow out and gears break and things that happen along the way. But I think it sends a message to kids that no matter what you face in life — and there are going to be some trials and tribulations —  that you’ve got to push through it and just got to do it. I think we try to send that message of positivity to kids.”

Dr. Shawn Robinson and riders on a previous long bike ride for the Dyslexia Awareness Ride.

Robinson, a Senior Research Associate at Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory – Wei LAB, earned his Ph.D. in language and literacy and his extensive research and advocacy for the education of young Black males led him to the White House where he presented his research before people in President Obama’s administration’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative. This will be the third year he will be doing the Dyslexia Awareness Ride. Other trips started in Oshkosh and ended near Chicago and in Middleton.

“The group of us who are doing it have done 100 miles before so we are used to the terrain and we understand each other’s endurance,” Robinson says. “We try to make the ride in a reasonable time with as few stops as possible. Dave is our mechanic and coach from the sideline and he meets us every so often — maybe 20 miles — and sees what our needs are. If we don’t need him, we just move on to the next one. He meets us at the next stop.”

“Dave” is Dave Martin, the general manager of Wheel and Sprocket, the sponsor of the ride.

“We play leapfrog all day. If they don’t need anything they just go right on by and I meet them at the next stop. If there’s a problem, they can call me and I can come back but we generally keep it moving pretty quick,” Martin tells Madison365.

Robinson says that he has been biking for about four years and has really enjoyed it. “I met Dave when I kept going to the shop because my bike always broke,” he laughs. 

Dave Martin (far left) and Dr. Shawn Robinson (fourth from left) on a Dyslexia Awareness Ride

Martin says that he is excited to be a partner in the event adding that Wheel & Sprocket “likes to figure out creative ways for the business to do good things in the community.”

“I have a background in education and dyslexia and I actually went to school to be a teacher. So when Shawn approached us about this, it was pretty exciting for me to just be able to support it,” Martin says. “I have ADHD so I kind of look at it as like the mental health and educational aspect of exercise and the importance of kids riding to school, walking to school, getting exercise. All of these things are interconnected, whether it’s somebody with dyslexia specifically or other learning issues, or just kids in general. This event is all about doing something positive and raising awareness about the need to focus on education in general, special needs, exercise, fitness, all that stuff.”

Robinson has had a life-long commitment to supporting students with dyslexia. He has co-authored a series of books with his wife called “Doctor Dyslexia Dude,” a compelling story of an African-American boy who is also a colorful superhero with dyslexia. 

“We’re just trying to raise awareness for dyslexia and mental health because October is Dyslexia Awareness Month and mental health is important too,” he says. ” Kids need to have some positive outlets and biking is a positive outlet. Wd just try to raise awareness for both dyslexia and also the mental health and physical health aspect of just biking and getting outdoors and building community.”

Beyond the fundraising for dyslexia, both Martin and Robinson say they are excited about what Robinson, as an African American cyclist in a high-profile ride, can do for the diversity of cycling.

“Shawn and I’ve had a lot of talks about how we can increase diversity in biking,” Martin says. “It’s something that we’re very aware of.”

Map of the bike route

“A lot of times we don’t see many kids that look like me on bikes,” Robinson adds. “So I think that representation in biking is important. This ride is also about building the community, the space, the awareness, the health, everything. We’re all one we’re all part of a community.”

To donate to the annual Dyslexia Awareness Ride, click here. Starting in Oshkosh, the ride will finish up at the new Wheel & Sprocket in Fitchburg.

“We will be leaving on Friday, Oct. 7 at 6:30 a.m. in the morning and we should hopefully be getting into Fitchburg at 3 or 4 p.m. depending on how many stops we make and depending on whether we face any headwinds,” Robinson says. “I’m really looking forward to this.”