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I have always been told that dyslexics are not readers.  Not in the sense that they consume books the way a chocoholic enjoys a bar of Swiss chocolate - making it an experience of almost religious proportions.

This I've always heard.

But I am dyslexic  . . . and an avid reader . . . all be it slow

Thanks to my parents, I have been able to read since I was three.

My mother was the director of a public library in a suburb of Denver, and I would often be there.  Surrounded by books.

There were also books at home.  Three bookcases in the living room and a bookcase in my bedroom.

A house without books is like a room without windows.
 - Horace Mann
I don't know why I became such an ardent reader.  My parents were a big part for sure, but there also weren't that many other competing distractions in the 1960s in Denver. Colorado.

Denver only had five television stations (2, 4, 6, 7, 9).  

Channel 7 had something for kids in the morning with the "Noel and Andy" show.  There were cartoons (Mighty Mouse was most often played). Noel would show you how to draw this and that.  And if you didn't miss your school bus by watching, that was it for kids.

Sure Channel 2 would play reruns of the "Honeymooners" at around noon.  But it had important shows to run like "Queen for a Day"(drek - which they'd even re-run years after the show ended) and  the talk show "Not for Women Only" (which was important, just not to a kid).  

At 3 pm Channel 2 would begin the afterschool programming complete with "Blinky's Fun Club" and reruns of "Gilligan's Island," "MacHale's Navy," the "Flintstones" etc.

Thursday nights, Channel 6 (PBS) would have Gene's Junction (and I still have my sing a long book).

But besides playing outside, scouts, church (if your church held mid week church, mine didn't), and I had ballet, there weren't many other distractions after school.

Which meant for me, a child who was bullied for being a "dyslexic, pigeon toed, buck toothed, chubby kid who needed glasses," there weren't a lot of ways and places to escape.

The bullying for being dyslexic started in Kindergarten (a private school), when my teacher put a "dunce cap" on me and sat me in a corner.  This despite the fact that I could read.  One day my parents visited the school and saw this.  The uproar was loud and immediate.  My father (also dyslexic) was not going to allow what was done to him, to be done to me.

But the bullying continued into elementary at the public school.

I was slow in reading, though I read!  I was in the last reading group and watched kids get promoted ahead of me when they didn't have a working vocabulary as great as mine.  I was particularly incensed when Stacy was advanced a head of me when she couldn't define words like "shingle." (yep, still not over it)  But I couldn't read aloud without stumbling, which was the measure Mrs. D. used.

I went to summer school every summer because of reading.  Even though I participated in three summer reading programs, every summer and read double or triple the amount suggested.

My school principal didn't hold out much hope for me either.  She told my mother, "Some kids have it for school and some kids don't.  [Your daughter] obviously doesn't."

I hated school.  But for reasons my mother never understood, I would play school when I got home from it with my little sister.  It really wasn't a mystery to me why I was doing it.  I reasoned that I was getting all this abuse because I was dumb (even though on many levels I knew I wasn't).  If my sister entered school "smart" she'd be okay.  So I taught her.

In Kindergarten she could not only could add fractions, she understood them. (which wasn't something even remotely close to being in preschool curricula at the time).

Books became my refuge.  I would come home from a day of being tormented (calling me "pig" and pushing up their nose and making pig sounds when they saw me was a favorite) and after sitting in front of the tv for a while, I would then lose myself in a book.

Books became the bricks and walls of my emotional Keep and Ramparts.

After 4th grade my parents pulled me out and into a private school.  I was asked if I wanted to move on to 5th grade and possibly have to take summer school every year for the rest of my life, or do 4th grade again and never have to do summer school again unless I wanted to.

I so hated summer school and the time it took from swimming, etc.  that I readily agreed to take 4th grade over again.  This time I was a success, so much so that the public elementary wanted me back.

I did return to public school after one year because I missed the competition - but never again went to that school or any of the schools that were the "track" kids on my block went to.

In that year, though, under the watchful eye of my beloved Sister Irene I gained self confidence and self assurance, and the new ability to deal with bullies (even after getting braces).  I became the student I was always meant to be.

I continued to read, and read a lot.  

Never read Poe when you can't sleep at night, and you need to.
-book reading wisdom from Clytemnestra
But I never shook the feeling of books being my armor against the world.  When I saw the movie "Fahrenheit 451" it triggered a great unspoken fear inside me that books would disappear, and I began to collect them.  Some may say "horde them."  But I felt a deep, maybe irrational fear that "my kingdom" was at risk.

Sometimes that collecting has helped us.

When we were very poor I sold my whole Khalil Gibran collection.  And while I understand why, I still regret it to this day.

And sometimes it's just boxes and more boxes of books to move from one address to another.

In our house, like the one I grew up in, there are three bookcases in the livingroom.  There is also, at least one bookcase in every bedroom, and several more in hallways, etc.  My husband is also an avid reader, and while 2 of my children loved to read, my 2 others would be hard pressed to pick up a book for enjoyment.

These two, like their mother, also have dyslexia.  My oldest son's is more profound than mine, but then again his biological father was also dyslexic.  Try as I might, with all the tricks I learned (because 1960s education didn't do much to help dyslexics - remediation was only starting in the early middle 70s).  The tricks and coping skills that my Dad had taught me.

Reading, like most skills, gets better the more you do.  Even for dyslexics.  But beyond graphic novels (which I didn't have a problem with) we couldn't get our two dyslexic sons to be engaged readers.  

It wasn't until we stumbled on to the University of Massachusetts Summer Reading Programs for Children and Adults that the reader in them came through.  

I can't really tell you what they did, but the change was immediate.  For the last semester of my eldest son's high school career, he was the student his teachers always knew was there (they even said so at graduation).  He read, and he read more.  One of his favorite authors is Kurt Vonnegut.

Our youngest, now 17, took the class for 3rd graders and it's like he never had a problem to begin with.  UMass reading program did more for him in 2 months than a couple of years at Sylvan did.

I am often asked why, having grown up in a public library and being the reader I am, why I don't patronize our public library.  The answer is simple, I have such a hard time getting books back in time that I generally pay enough in fines to buy the book.  So I just go ahead and buy the book.

Yeah I am that bad.

But this is where Kindle has been a Godsend.  Books on Kindle generally don't cost as much as paper books.  And they don't weigh as much either (I was seriously getting tendinitis issues with George R. R. Martin's, "A Dance with Dragons: A Song of Ice and Fire" it was so heavy.

It was the single biggest reason I bought a Kindle.  And now, with the closing of our closest bookstore, the fastest way I can get books.

And boy have I been getting (and reading) books.  From December 30, 2011 when I downloaded my first kindle book to today, March 21, 2013, I have read 30 books.

That's 2 books a month.  And that may seem like a small amount to anyone else (my husband probably doubles that with little effort) but to a dyslexic that is huge.

Dyslexics can read.
Dyslexics can enjoy reading
Dyslexics can get better and faster at reading, the more they read

if given the proper tools and education and time without pressure.

Now I just need to decide what my 31st book will be.


My dyslexic family tree

My paternal grandfather
my Dad
oldest and youngest son

my ex-husband was dyslexic
my father's brother's son was also dyslexic

My father did wear a dunce cap in school and was called "Dummy" even by his siblings.  When my Dad put the pieces together and figured out that Grandpa was also dyslexic and told his oldest sister, she acted like he had just said that Grandpa murdered 20 people.

Later, I'm told, she came around to believing that Dad was/is right. (something in the back of my head is suggesting that her son may also be dyslexic).  My other cousin's dyslexia was also discovered after death when his sister and I had a whole discussion on what being dyslexic is like.  My uncle was very hard on all his children.

Humiliation when trying to educate does more harm than good.

The last 11 books I've read (in descending order, most recent first  - I finished Lauren Drain's 2 nights ago)

Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church
Drain, Lauren

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness
Cahalan, Susannah

My Billion Year Contract, Memoir of a Former Scientologist
Many, Nancy

Scobee, Amy

Blown for Good: Behind the Iron Curtain of Scientology
Headley, Marc   

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief
Wright, Lawrence

Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape
Hill, Jenna Miscavige, Pulitzer, Lisa

Beautiful Chaos (Beautiful Creatures)
Garcia, Kami, Stohl, Margaret   

Beautiful Redemption (Beautiful Creatures)
Garcia, Kami, Stohl, Margaret   

Beautiful Darkness (Beautiful Creatures)
Garcia, Kami, Stohl, Margaret   

Beautiful Creatures
Garcia, Kami, Stohl, Margaret

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (15+ / 0-)

    Bumper sticker seen on I-95; "Stop Socialism" my response: "Don't like socialism? GET OFF the Interstate highway!"

    by Clytemnestra on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 09:58:02 AM PDT

  •  This is inspiring, Clytemnestra (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FloridaSNMOM, Clytemnestra, chimene

    We all know people we love who struggle with dyslexia.  Good for you for everything you've accomplished.

  •  I worried about my daughter for a while (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and dyslexia, because her reading didn't progress as fast as I would have liked. But, since we discovered her vision issues I think that was the root of her problem. She doesn't write words or letters wrong, so long as they are big enough. She doesn't have a problem reading, other than being slow at it, so long as the words are big enough and the spaces between lines are big enough. For her Kindle has been a godsend because we can up the font big enough that she doesn't have a problem reading.

    She didn't really start having problems with reading until 2nd grade, we think because print starts getting smaller.
    Now she reads on Kindle because most books for 4th graders aren't made in large print. Or she reads audio books. She LOVES audio books. She's become a voracious reader on audio. Her vocabulary is huge. Her spelling, not as good. But it's hard to learn to spell when you're not seeing the words. Sure you can memorize them for spelling tests, but it's like learning Spanish in high school and then trying to speak it 4 years later. If you haven't used it, poof, it's gone. So we're trying to get her to write more, because then at least she's using the spelling.

    "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

    by FloridaSNMOM on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 11:58:00 AM PDT

    •  I hate when things are right and left justified (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      because then I don't have the visual cues I used from one line to the next.

      Spelling, I'm still working on.  Homophones are the worst.

      I keep challenging my oldest son not to just give up on his spelling but to continually work at it.  Just because he's only 26 is no excuse (I'm 50)

      Bumper sticker seen on I-95; "Stop Socialism" my response: "Don't like socialism? GET OFF the Interstate highway!"

      by Clytemnestra on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 01:22:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I, too, am dyslexic. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Mildly so, in my case, but enough to be a problem. My second grade teacher described me using the "r" word to my parents. Fortunately, my parents were in my corner, and I believe Mrs. Williams was removed from her teaching responsibilities. At the very least, she didn't teach at that school anymore.

    I can't say I was a big reader early on, although when I would get into a book I would completely shut the world outside of it off. I literally would not hear other people talking to me, etc. I really got involved in reading voraciously after high school. You know, the usual adolescent Russian romantic novel stage (I haven't outgrown that one!) Now my house is filled with books and I always seem to have at least 3 going. OF course, being married to a professional editor helps.

    Usually I'm able to handle my dyslexia with humor. I'll misread something, say to myself "huh?", reread the passage, and if my wife or daughter are around I'll tell them about it what I saw the first time, if I thought it was funny, and we'll share a laugh. But it did make getting through graduate school a challenge. Especially having to read those academic journal articles over and over (and sometimes over  and over again. I do realize that is not only do to my dyslexia, but also to the way those damn things are written.) But I persevered, and, as of 1991 I earned the right to be addressed as Dr. HugoDog.
    And I work in a library!

    These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people... -Abraham Lincoln

    by HugoDog on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 12:09:47 PM PDT

    •  Cool! I've worked in libraries (in fact that's (0+ / 0-)

      where I met my current husband).

      At one library where I was trying to get a job the supervisior was giving me a sort of "shelf reading test" by giving me book cards (Library of Congress) to sort and put in order ... and invariably I would get one or two wrong.  

      However she gave me a chance to actually do some real shelf reading and didn't find any errors.  She couldn't explain it, but gave me the job.

      Bumper sticker seen on I-95; "Stop Socialism" my response: "Don't like socialism? GET OFF the Interstate highway!"

      by Clytemnestra on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 01:27:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My oldst son (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    has some characteristics, but he was a good reader, too.

    He told me once that he read the words from the middle to the edges.  ???

    It worked.  :)

    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 12:10:36 PM PDT

  •  Good to see you Clytemnestra (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I'm also dyslexic and it wrecked me all the way through school.
    And I also love to read, got most of my education that way (as opposed to school which boiled down to Sit-In-Your-Chair lessons).
    I participated in an experiment teaching Evelyn Woods Reading Dynamics to 10 year-olds and boy did that work!
    I went from a hundred words per minute with difficulty and little continuity to 2500 wpm with excellent retention. It turned out to be the same kind of exercises and coping skills that dyslexics need.
    It unfortunately, didn't help with the writing part or with numbers being in the wrong order, so it didn't help with improving my grades.
    And no one at the time had any idea what dyslexia was or how to cope with it. So I was never diagnosed until I figured it out years later.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 12:46:16 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for your Post!!! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I come from a family of dyslexic's, too. My dad, sister, daughter all share that ability or disability depending on the outlook.

    My daughter has also found that reading on Kindle, for her, through a Smart Phone app, works wonders. Trying to read line by line in a book does not work well.

    She is finishing up her last semester of college for her BA because of many doors that opened for her that were not available to my sister and dad.

    I am very happy, proud and excited for her! She has a vision, a way of seeing things that is way beyond most people.

    •  one of the few, or perhaps the only good thing (0+ / 0-)

      Mrs. D. taught that had full application to my dyslexia was using my finger, a book mark or folded straight edge of a paper to keep me on the right line as I read.

      It helped immeasurably.

      Bumper sticker seen on I-95; "Stop Socialism" my response: "Don't like socialism? GET OFF the Interstate highway!"

      by Clytemnestra on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 03:05:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I taught a girl who (0+ / 0-)

    loved to read.  I'd have to make her put a book down so that we could get on with class.  As the year wore on, I also discovered that once she had finished a book, she couldn't tell me anything that was in it.  I tried to find out what was going on with her, but she was never able to make me understand why she liked to read if she couldn't remember any of it.  

    One of her classmates was dyslexic.  She'd made an adaptation that I hadn't run into before.  Lots of people say um or er if they're stumbling over words.  This girl cleared her throat.  Sometimes it was several times per sentence.  She always volunteered to read, but I worried that she'd screw up her voice if she kept irritating her throat like that.  

    Oh, and I have NEVER seen a spelling test like hers.  (I gave her shorter lists than the rest of the kids.)  There were some words on her paper that had NONE of the letters of the test word.  It was always an adventure correcting her papers.  ;-)

    Both of these girls were smart in many ways, but not too many people had bothered to notice before my co-teacher and I got them in 6th grade.  :-(

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 03:38:03 PM PDT

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