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If I Had Known: An Essay from a Dyslexic

Updated: Jun 18, 2020

A student of mine wrote this essay for an English assignment. I was almost brought to tears as I read. "If I Had Known" is a thought on my mind almost every day. If I would have known I was dyslexic... If I had gotten the help I needed as a young child... The wounds are deep. The wounds are real.

Please enjoy this essay written by Carson. He has given me permission to post it. Let's give him a huge pat on the back for his words and bravery.

If I Had Known

All seventeen years of my life I've never once picked up a book outside of the classroom. No matter how bored I was, no matter who asked me to read, my lack of reading skills discouraged me of ever being fond of reading. Realizing that my eighteenth year is coming up and that I’ll be attending college soon, I’m starting to see just how important having a solid foundation of reading really is. Reading teaches skills in ways that no other subjects can such as analyzing. Because I want to be a computer engineer, I need to be an all around good reader and be able to retain the information I read. I haven't had the chance to be exceptional at reading because of the amount of judgement I received as a child.

The first grade is when I can first recall ever having to read a book. The classroom was full of young minds ready to learn to read. Our teacher was going over some words in the book as the students said them aloud. I can remember having a immense amount of trouble pronouncing the words, so after school I went home to ask my parents for help. When I arrived at my front door I was greeted with hugs and kisses, like always, but to my dissatisfaction, I noticed that my parents had no motive to help me with my reading. I begged them all night to listen to me; I wanted to be able to go back to school and read like all the other students. I felt alone and deeply angered, trying to find other means of help, but there were none.

In the third grade I faced a challenge. At my school we had a reading system called ‘AR reading’. There were a variety of books with many different colored dots on the spines, each color being a different skill level. The only books I wanted to read were fantasies because they gave me an escape from the real world. The books I craved most were marked at a level much higher than mine, and once again my lack of skill and experience in reading angered me. The kids in my class were going through the reading levels like normal, but I wasn’t. I struggled to find books that I could get sucked into and enjoy, but the books I was capable of reading were childish and meant to entertain a mind much younger than mine. I couldn't ever get into reading these books because although I was maturing along with everyone else, my reading abilities were not improving. Instead of trying to get better, I quit.

A year later, in the fourth grade, I learned to hate reading the most. Everyday in language class my classmates and I would read small passages from our school books in a “popcorn reading” style; the kids would read a small section then pass it to a different student to read. I would sit in the back, dreading the thought of my teacher even possibly uttering the words “pull out your books!” but every day, around the same time, she would say it. I knew what would happen if I was called upon to read; embarrassment to the highest degree. I’d never felt more discouraged in my life than when I had to read in front of people, the whispers of classmates behind me as I stumbled over words and ravaged pronunciations; I could feel them judging me. I never wanted to read. Knowing that people were making fun of me killed my drive to be an exceedingly good reader. I was so confused on why I couldn't get what I was saying in my head while reading, out of my mouth. I practiced and practiced, but could never get it right, and still no one would help me. That whole year my classmates would call on me and then laugh at me as I fumbled over my words. The teacher did not stop them, and I could not defend myself against their cruelty.

Throughout my childhood I struggled with reading. In this past year I finally decided to reach out for help for one last time, and to my surprise, help was given. For the past 12 years of school I had struggled, and now in my senior year, I found the reason why. I had dyslexia. Having had no idea what was wrong with me until my last year of high school, I was bothered. No one had reached out to try and help, and here I was with a large obstacle I could have overcome years ago. Now, as I sit here at the end of my primary educational career, I am thankful. I spent years struggling, but now I am equipped with the tools to push hard through tough battles. Reading did not teach me to find deeper meanings or to be a literary expert. Reading taught me to be hardworking, persistent, and to never lose sight of a goal that you really want, because every goal is achievable.

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