This post it a little longer than what I normally write, but I swear theres a point. So just… bear with me.
From the time I was very young, I was a lover of books. To me, there was something almost intoxicating about them. The way they looked, the way they smelled, the way they felt… there was something romantic about them, and they made me feel, among many other things, curious.
Interestingly enough, as much as I liked books, I didn’t always like reading so much.
During the first half of my grade school education, reading comprehension was a major struggle for me. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I had some minor “developmental delays”. I think that mainly, these delays were a result of a system that was designed in a way that didn’t work for me or my style of learning. What I really needed as a means for addressing these delays, was a little extra attention. Unfortunately, my poor, overworked public school teachers didn’t have the time to give it to me, so instead they chose to ignore the problem.
I remember being in the second grade – in Mrs. Kingsley’s class – and often splitting up into a version of “centers,” during which we would focus on our subjects in smaller groups. You would think that if no other time, this was the perfect opportunity to give kids extra help if they needed it, right? Unfortunately, this was not the philosophy taken on by my teacher or her aides.
In reading group, we sat in a circle each taking turns reading aloud. I carefully followed along in the book as each of my classmates read a passage or two aloud, nervously awaiting my turn. Reading in my head wasn’t that difficult, it was just paying attention to and understanding what I was reading that I found cumbersome. Reading out loud however, was another issue entirely.
As the tiny hispanic boy sitting next to me finished up his passage, I prepared myself to read. But to my surprise, the teacher’s aide stopped me before I even began, and said, “it’s okay Alex, you don’t have to read if you don’t want to.”
If you think that I confidently assured the teacher that I could do it, you would be mistaken. I was a timid second grader, and although I was ashamed of being skipped, I also knew I was bad at reading out loud, so part of me was relieved.
Of course, this was not helping my problem. In fact it was probably making things worse. Not only was I deprived of the opportunity to practice reading out loud with the rest of my classmates, but also this idea that I wasn’t very good at it, was being reinforced.
This is so wrong to me. Does anyone else not think this is wrong!?!
I get it, a classroom is a stressful place, and the school system expects a lot out of our public school teachers, and mostly, I blame the system. But I’m still pretty mad at my teachers too. Why should my needs have been neglected? Why should I not have been forced to work with my weaknesses? It’s just so wrong.
Fortunately, this story has a somewhat happy ending, mostly thank’s to the fact that my mom was very proactive about giving me the extra help I needed in whatever ways she knew how. (But can you see how this could be detrimental to someone who’s parents were either unable to be proactive helpers, or simply had no interest in it?).
As a someone who had a profound love of books, even at such a young age, this was a problem I was not only willing to work with on my own, but it was something I wanted to work with. So, with my mothers encouragement, I made up for the lack of attention I got in school in my own time.
From that point on, whenever I had the opportunity to check out a new book from the library, I would retreat with it to my room, and practice reading it out loud on my own (as suggested by my mother). I would read my books from start to finish, out loud, reciting to my dolls and stuffed animals, stumbling over big words and long sentences, gradually working my way toward a more graceful read.
As time went on, I noticed that reading out loud was helping immensely with my reading comprehension. I was starting to actually understand what I was reading (as where before, I could scarcely grab hold of the topic). It was amazing and I was elated. I had prevailed, despite not having the help I needed in school. I think this was probably one of the first times I experienced what it’s like to achieve something that I put my mind to, and the importance of that is monumental.
This is something that has shaped my life immensely. It took me down a life long path that to this day I am still exploring.
There is however one caveat. I noticed that while practicing to read out loud was helpful, reading silently in my head was still making comprehension difficult. So, I had to adjust the way I was reading. That’s when I began reading in my head as if I were reading aloud, sometimes even mouthing the words as I read. I made it a habit, and now, even to this day, I still do it. And honestly, it’s something that I don’t really know how not to do?
Because of this, I’m like the slowest reader on the planet and it’s super frustrating. But, I’ll still take this one as a win.
So, why am I sharing this story? Well, maybe there’s a message I’m trying to get across, like, don’t give up something you love just because you’re not great at it. Keep trying. Practice. Put work into the things that are meaningful to you, no matter what anyone else says. And so what if you’re never great at it (it probably takes me 2x as long to read a book as it does most other people)? If it’s something you love, and it makes you happy, then it’s worth your time. And you, my friends, are worth it.
Have you ever struggled through learning a skill all on your own? How did it work out for you? Is it something you love? Or love to hate? Was there a time where you prevailed even when others didn’t believe in you? Tell me about one of your wins. I want to hear. Link a blog post, or talk to me in the comments below 🙂
Photo Credit to Sarah Mak: Unsplash.com