Imaginative Discussions: Literacy Story

Posted September 10, 2014 by Lyn Kaye in Imaginative Discussions, Lyn / 19 Comments


This week, I panicked when I thought about my topic of discussion this week. I have the distinct impression that I am smashing myself right into the wall of writer’s block. So after some Google-fu, I came across a lovely blog, Estellea’s Revenge, that provided 15 topics to beat the blogging blues. The first one jumped out at me right away:

Your literacy story; how did you become a reader?

This tale is a bittersweet one for me.  My “literacy story” is also entwined with my ongoing mental history and learning disability background. Last week, Debby from Snuggly Oranges confessed that she hated reading as a young child. I was blown away when I read this, because I feel that I had a similar attitude towards reading. I hated it, since I associated it with another form of failure in my academic career.  Other factors, such as dyslexia and anxiety towards the AR program quickly killed off any desire to read for fun.

During elementary, I did not have the best relationship with reading. I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was 10, and I started my classes when I entered into the 5th grade. Prior to this, I was frustrated with my own performance, and I knew that something was not clicking for me. This became apparent in 2nd grade. I was failing at reading. I was so far behind my other classmates during reading time in small groups. I was in the lowest level. I know that educators have cute names for each group, like diamonds and stars and such, but I was oddly observant of the things around me, and I knew that I was not cream of the crop. The kids in myreading group were struggling as well, so it was a flashing sign that pointed at my own disability.  It was crystal clear to me that I was struggling. I was a horrible speller, and I kept stumbling over grammar, an issue I still face to this day. I wasn’t getting it. My teacher called me “stupid” to my face, and I was disengaged from my work.  I hated reading time in 2nd grade. Round robin reading out of our text books, which featured small portions of age-appropriate stories, was pure hell. I despised the fact that I couldn’t read the story at my own pace, and that we would only get a small snippet of the whole plot.

My frustration towards the hobby was planted in this grade.

Looking back, I should have been held back a year in school. I was a late bloomer, and since my birthday starts in June, I straddled that line, and my age did become an issue. My mother confessed to me that my pediatrician strongly suggested to start me in Kinder when I turned 5, even though my mother wanted to wait a year. He recommended this because I was extremely shy and I was not developing socially. My mother took the advice of the doctor, and enrolled me. I was one of the youngest kids in my class, a trend that continued until I graduated.

The rest of my elementary years did not bode well. I was always behind my other peers. The school constantly tested me for speech issues and other problems as well. The thing that confused them was my ability to pass standardized testing with no issues. They never could hold me back because I always held my own for testing.  However, this did not prevent me from becoming labeled as “dumb” by other teachers, and I was simply written off as “below average.”

Despite this hiccup,  I read at home in my younger years, but it was simple stories that I knew was a full level below my age group. I loved chapter books and Scholastic paperbacks.  When I was in 5th grade, I tore through the Babysitters Club books in a mere day. However, I didn’t seek out books, and it only caught my attention from tine to time. I wasn’t a consistent book worm.  I held the same attitude towards reading for school. I hated reading the stories assigned. I developed the idea that reading for school was unfair and boring. I can recall in the 5th grade when my teacher read to my class the story of Snot Stew by Bill Wallace.  Something horrible happens to a cat in the book, and I could recall my horror when the story was read. Everyone else in my class loved in, and I cried for the cat. I began to think that there was something just wrong with me. I never liked the books that my classmates did. One of my favorite books at home was the Reader’s Digest kid’s encyclopedia. All the other girls in my class loved stories about horses, while I adored fantasy and books on cats. The girls started to try to read books meant for older kids, while I was content with sweet, non-kissing books.

I also highly disliked AR (accelerated reader) quite a bit.  It overjoys me to see that articles are popping up claiming that the program does more harm than good. I can say from a personal POV that the program isn’t working.

I entered in middle school with an unhealthy dose of hatred for reading. I stopped reading for fun at this point.  I didn’t pick up any other books until high school.  There were other things in my life that I was battling, such as crippling social anxiety, shyness, diagnosed depression, and the stigma of poverty. This wasn’t the best of times. I don’t like to linger on this period of my life.

In high school, I slowly turned my thoughts towards reading for fun once again. My main issue was the lack of knowledge about what was available. We didn’t have Goodreads and Amazon back in the day.  I didn’t care for classics (I tried to read Cold Sassy Tree and HATED it) and I had no close friends to ask about book recommendations.  I was lucky enough to discover Cynthia Voigt and Stephen King, but I wasn’t reading consistently. I also read a few Sweet Valley High books, but I was so insanely jealous of the girls that finally gave up on the series. I was a social outcast – why did I want to read about pretty, popular cheerleaders and beauty queens? I did borrow some of the horror paperbacks in my life skills class, since it was all the rage when I was in high school.  I can recall two of the books that I enjoyed the most: One was about a girl killing off her classmates, because her sister almost burned to death (one was named Nell), and The Immortal by Christopher Pike.

When I became a senior in high school, I was brave enough to try AP English, which was a first small, tiny step towards developing a better attitude regarding reading. We learned how to dissect stories, and I know this is hard to believe, but I actually learned about symbolism and literacy devices to make a story more appealing. That’s right: I had to learn how to read a story. I began to GET it. I understood the baskets of dead sea fruit and what they meant. I adored a Tale of Two Cities and Things Fall Apart. For the first time in my life, I actually felt better about books in general.

Sadly, it was a little too late for me, and my interest began to wane during college as I tried to find out who I was (cue cheesefest music).  I attended a community college and graduated as soon as I could with my associates, and I never considered reading as a hobby because I never warmed up to adult books. I still had the notion that I was simply not intelligent enough to read for a hobby. Public schooling had left a permanent scar.

I graduated school, and soon abandoned my chosen field as a veterinarian technician – I HATED working for a vet. This wasn’t a good point in my life. I was in my 20s, drowning in debt, freaking out that I was single, slowly realizing that I was agnostic, abandoning my old labels and life, and I still had no clue about who I wanted to be. I wandered in my life for a while. I worked in the freight division (a horrible, horrible business) and I struggled with my depression and my deep-seeded acceptance of my stupidity.

Now here comes the happy part!

Finally, in 2008, one of my closest friends introduced me to a book that broke the cycle of book hatred: Twilight.

Take a breath.

Yes, I said it: Twilight actually ushered in my newfound love for reading. I discovered that other adults loved reading YA fiction. I wasn’t alone! I discovered Goodreads, and I connected to others. I started to see that I was going down a dark path in my life, and I returned to school for my bachelor’s degree in science. I discovered I wasn’t stupid. I discovered that it is okay to be a slow reader. I finally knew that it was fine to read graphic novels and Star Trek novels and young adult fiction.

And here I am today.

So, Twilight pulled me out of a hole. It was the gateway other and better books. I am also shedding the idea that I am stupid and lowly and below average.

What about your own history? Did you like reading when you were a kid? Are there any topics you would like to see addressed by us for Imaginative Discussions?




19 responses to “Imaginative Discussions: Literacy Story

  1. Public schooling really, REALLY has its problems. I was horrified reading about the way your teaches treated you and talked to you. That it just wrong on so many levels and it makes me just boil with anger and frustration. Teachers should want to nurture children and help them grow, not tear them down when they don’t meet their expectations. Every child is different and should be treated as an individual and not compared with others. And I absolutely loathe AR. I hated it as a kid and it made me feel like reading was more of a chore than anything else.

    On to happier thoughts…

    Twilight was what made me love reading, too. I was 12 when I picked it up and fell in love. I’ve been reading ever since and I’m glad Twilight was able to do that for you, too. It might not be the most genius and ground breaking move out there, but it is a great introduction into the bookish world.

    Thank you for sharing your story!
    Ashtyn Stann recently posted…Review: Monument 14My Profile

    • Lyn

      It doesn’t help that I attended school in Texas, one of the WORST states of public education. The system is so bloated and broken that I doubt that anything short of an overhaul will correct it.

      I am always amazed to see how many people give credit to Twilight! I suppose they were good for that, at lease!
      Lyn recently posted…Book Review: HorrorstörMy Profile

  2. Awwww, Lyn, I just want to give you a big old hug right now because ALL OF THE FEELS at this post. It’s interesting that we have such similar stories, and yeah, I really wish the school system would improve because we’re far from the only ones they’re turning off to reading.

    I’m glad Twilight opened the door to books that were more for you 🙂 They were among the rare books I read, even before I actually enjoyed reading, but it’s obvious that they’ve done a great service to the young adult segment of books and readers.

    Debby (Snuggly Oranges) recently posted…Audiobook Review: Allegiant by Veronica RothMy Profile

    • Lyn

      I tried to get involved and become a teacher but… Texas is such a sinkhole when it comes to education. Ranking next-to-last in everything is a testimony to the broken system and the victims of the public school sham.
      I figured out very quickly that you are a good teacher, or a good school employee. I just couldn’t pull it off. I wasn’t going to go in there and do one better than the other. I had a break down, panicked and wandered, and I see that I would have become miserable and dejected in the role.

      Our leaders here are horrible, and as long as we have the conservatives in charge of the Education board, then it isn’t going to get better, and it makes my heart bleed.

      When I read your story, I was so shocked how they were so similar! I took you for a long-time, nose-in-a-book person! In a way, it helped ease my nerves and gave me the courage to write more in depth on this subject.
      Lyn recently posted…Book Review: HorrorstörMy Profile

  3. Kat

    It’s just amazing in itself to hear that you were dyslexic, and now you’re a book blogger which is even further than being an avid reader. Though my love for reading started when I was very little (in fact, I learned to read at least an year before my other friends did because of it), I would have to agree with the fact that things you love don’t come to you for a while. As for my self, I wasn’t fully aware of how much I loved music till my second or third year at my art school.
    Kat recently posted…Musical Monday: Relaxing/Partying LyricsMy Profile

    • Lyn

      I beg my cobloggers to look over my work, because sometimes I just miss things. They’re so great to me!

      It was hard to get back into it, because the internet was so new, and I wasn’t very social. When I found online resources, the possibilities just opened up. I am so thankful that the internet is here to help people find their passion!
      Lyn recently posted…Book Review: HorrorstörMy Profile

  4. This story is so sad and so beautiful that I want to cry for you. I can’t imagine what it must have been like because I was always an advanced reader, but I’m so glad you’ve overcome all your obstacles and are such a great reader and blogger now. Twilight was also a portal to me after I burned out from a literature degree. I don’t care what people say, but those books are damn important.Books forever!

    • Lyn

      They were, and I am happy to be in the middle when it comes to the books. There were parts I did not like, but it reminded me that I am free to read what I want and there is no shame in reading books aiming for a young audience!

      I am sorry to hear your degree burned you out. 🙁
      Lyn recently posted…Book Review: HorrorstörMy Profile

  5. Lyn I swear we are like almost two peas in a pod, I had all the same problems although dyslexia wasn’t one of them but being hard of hearing did take me out of the social conversations and reading levels weren’t that great. I despise books, I could barely read one page or two for a reading assignment/book reports, it was just not my thing. I was more artsy at the time then when I hit middle school and high school, there were books that were required reading but luckily most of my english classes had us watch the movie as well. BUT YUCK!!!! and then “bird chirping and signing” I met Twilight and it went on from there. Now I have three shelves or well two physical ones and about 6 crates. All with books I have read or haven’t read.
    SassyCat’s Reviews recently posted…The Cat’s Meow: Mail MicesMy Profile

  6. Aww Lyn, I don’t know what to say. You’re always lovely to talk to and your posts are always wonderful so it’s heartbreaking to know you went through so much. I have no idea about the public schooling in other countries, but in the UK, it’s extremely common and I have to say, it’s not too bad, I went through it and came out the other end okay, but what you went through, it sounds absolutely horrible and I can understand why reading wasn’t for you as a child, no matter how much you wanted it to be. I think so many people have Twilight to thank for getting them back into reading or into YA books, but I don’t personally (I own it, haven’t read it yet) but I think it’s wonderful that you all have this common that book that kick-started a few common hobbies. Never feel like you’re stupid or not capable Lyn, you are capable and your really intelligent, you may have what other people want, but you’re the Lyn we’ve all come to love, don’t change 🙂
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    • Lyn

      Thank you, Amanda. It didn’t help that I attended school in Texas, which is second to the bottom when it comes to public schooling in the USA. The system is beyond broken, and our people in charge can’t seem to get it together. I tried to get into the system and make a difference but with the layout of public schooling, you can’t be a good teacher and a good education all at once. You have to either master teaching the kids or master the paperwork.
      I wasn’t cut out for it.
      Lyn recently posted…Book Review: HorrorstörMy Profile

  7. That’s a hard, sweet story Lyn. I’m glad there’s a happy ending-continuation??? Heh. It’s like magic: I don’t seem to hate Twilight as much now. 🙂 I’m glad you read it and I’m glad it brought you here, for OUR taking.
    Stuti recently posted…JackabyMy Profile

  8. It seems like everybody has one or more problems with public schooling and I’m one of them too. I had a healthy reading habit at home which is a good thing because my school (mostly high school) assigned next to no reading and I missed out on so many classics books that deserve reading (and others that don’t, so meh). It’s terrible to hear how teachers treated you, but I’m so glad you were able to overcome all that. I went through a few years where I read very little and Twilight also got me out of that slump. 🙂 It’s not as bad as people claim it to be.
    Bonnie @ For the Love of Words recently posted…Book Review – Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander #8) by Diana GabaldonMy Profile

    • Lyn

      I agree, Bonnie. In fact, Twilight would have been a better book without the main characters, Bella and Edward. I think when people hate the series, a lot of that anger is directed at the two MCs, which I have to agree with.

      I am doing all that I can to catch up on classic reading but….I have so many books I want to read right now.
      Lyn recently posted…Book Review: HorrorstörMy Profile

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