The following is a paper I wrote for one of my university’s classes freshman year. The prompt was to write a personal narrative on our origin story, and I wrote about having dyslexia.
C. L. S.
8 October 2013
Bingo Was Her Name-O
“There was a father who had a daughter and Cindy was her name-o, C-I-N-D-Y, C-I-N-D-Y, C-I-N-D-Y, and Cindy was her name-o.” These were words that I heard quite often in my childhood being sung to the tune of the ever so famous nursery rhyme, “Bingo Was His Name-O.” My ever so patient parents had to think of creative ways to aid their dyslexic child. The rhyme that they had made up helped me learn how to spell my name. Dyslexia is a learning disability where the brain has trouble recognizing, understanding, and spelling words. Dyslexia is not just a constant struggle in my life, but a part of me and what defines me. As I have gotten older I have not allowed the struggles to define me, but rather allowed myself to be defined by the triumphs.
In kindergarten my teacher wanted us to learn to read and write on a more independent level. I was always told “sound it out.” I was falling behind and became an annoyance to my teacher with my constant asking of what a word was, word after word. One day she told me that I, personally, was no longer allowed to ask for reading help. Everyone finished their worksheets before me and was allowed to go play. I had to stay back and finish. The worksheet was a simple list of true and false questions, but to someone who could not read it was a list of reasons to cry. In the amount of time it took everyone to finish I got through about four problems. I found the first few answers to be in a pattern: true then false then true then false. I wanted to play with my friends and wanted to be done with the worksheet. In my childish head I decide it was safe to assume that the rest of the problems followed this true then false pattern. I scribed out T’s and F’s next to the rest of the questions and turned the worksheet in. After getting the worksheet back and finding out that I had answered most of them wrong, I decided I was not meant to learn to read and I was no longer going to try. For only being six years old I had made a very big decision. A decision that I now know was the wrong decision.
The school I went to did not really have any special programs for anyone younger than second grade for reading help. When I got into second grade I was finally old enough to get extra help; extra help that I did not want. The day I had to meet my reading teacher for the first time was very stressful for me. I reluctantly walked into his room. He stood up, towering over me, intimidating me. He introduced himself as Mr. York. He had me take a seat and we got right down to business. He showed me words and asked me to read them to him. The first few were easy because they had been words I had memorized. Then he started showing me words that I did not know, not from lack of seeing but because in my mind the sound did not match the way it looked. I had not memorized them like I had the others. As I attempted to “sound it out” I broke down in tears. I was angry at this man whom I had just met. He was making me do something I knew I could not do and refused to learn to do.
I despised every day I had to go and meet with Mr. York. I had gotten to the point where I did not hate him; I just hated what he was making me do. He knew this and rewarded me with candy or a small trinket every time I had done what was asked of me. Mr. York had actually been a very understanding man. He was patient and in the end had taught me a lot. From Mr. York I learned how to actually sound words out instead of just being told to. He taught me how to use context clues when words became too hard to comprehend on their own. He also taught me how to be patient with what I was reading and that even though I was trying very hard, it was still going to take a while to get a hang of it. By the end of my time going to his class I had actually enjoyed it. Mr. York had become one of my favorite people. The program stopped at a certain age so I could no longer get out of my normal class and meet with him. I was on my own again.
By fifth grade I still had never read a chapter book on my own. I used the skills Mr. York had taught me to just get by. I had no motivation to leisurely read. I had no motivation to improve my reading skills. My fifth grade teacher came in knowing a lot about my situation and sounded very sincere about it. She introduced herself as Mrs. York, Mr. York’s wife. Since I was no longer young enough to be in the special reading program, Mrs. York made up one of her own. She spent extra time out of class with me and did not get annoyed with my constant asking of how certain words sounded. She taught me patterns in words and fun ways to remember how to spell some words. She also taught me reading comprehension skills and how to find the main point of a piece. Mrs. York was as patient as Mr. York. There was only one stipulation she had that I did not like, I had to read one full chapter book by the end of the year. I still did not believe in myself enough to think that I could do it. My mom gave me The Haunted Lighthouse by R. L. Stine and tried to convince me to read it. For weeks on end she would hand it to me and I would break down in tears. I was angry that my mom and Mrs. York had both wanted me to read a whole book on my own. I was not allowed to ask what a word says or ask someone to read it to me. It was just me on my own. Finally one day after fighting with my mother I grabbed the book, went outside on my deck, and began to read. I fell in love with the book; I fell in love with the way R. L. Stine wrote. A few weeks later I had finally finished the book and asked my mom to get me more books by R. L. Stine. She bought me his entire Mostly Ghostly series and I began to read. Each book took me a month or two, but I was reading.
Now that I was reading more, I was coming across much harder words that I had never seen. I had resorted back to asking my mom what the words meant. One day she came home with a dictionary just for me. When I asked what a word meant she would hand it to me. The dictionary was very confusing and hard to understand. In each definition I found another word I did not understand. Looking up a single word turned into a marathon of word searching. I became frustrated and began to cry every time she handed me the dictionary. When I would ask how to spell a word she would also hand me the dictionary. This was more frustrating than looking up the definition. I would constantly yell through sobs, “How can I look up how to spell a word if I do not know how to spell it in the first place?” I became so angry at the dictionary that I hid it from my mom so she would have to spell word out for me.
As middle school started I began to want to read more than just ghost stories. In the seventh grade my mom bought me The Night World series by L. J. Smith. When I first saw the books I was so intimidated. They were long and each had three stories. I thought there was no way I could even finish one of the books in under a year. I put the books up on my shelf and left them there for several months before building up enough courage to attempt the read. I picked up the first volume and fell head over heels in love with the series after reading just one paragraph. L. J. Smith has a way with words that just pulls you into the story and makes you believe you are actually there. Never had I ever imagined that a book could do such a thing. Each story in the first volume took about one month to read. When I finished it I immediately took the second volume off my shelf and began to read. I had got to the point where my mom was telling me to stop reading. To me this was a strange thing to hear, but like I had before, I did not listen to her. The second volume, as a whole, took me only one month to read.
During eighth grade a boy name Jeff spent many days making fun of me for not being able to spell certain words. We would be sitting and class and he would casually ask me how to spell a certain word and laugh when I got in wrong or refused to oblige. It got to the point where every Wednesday he would ask me how to spell the day of the week’s name. I got it wrong week after week. Finally I made promise to myself that I would learn to spell Wednesday. By the end of eighth grade I could spell Wednesday perfectly and Jeff was no longer making fun of me. I ended up thanking him at the end of the year for giving me the motivation to learn to spell a word I had trouble with.
When it came to learning to type, I could not, and still cannot, memorize the positions of the keys the way everyone else is taught to. My mind works differently and I see different patterns. While taking a technology class, we were not allowed to look at the keys while learning to type. I got to the point where I was failing the class. For the life of me I could not memorize home row. Every day I went to work on it I had to relearn where every letter was. I started cheating the system by memorizing the way certain words are spelt out on the key board. At the time I could not tell you where the letter ‘A’ was but I could tell you that the word ‘was’ was a triangle to the left on the key board. By using tricks like that I slowly raise my grade high enough to just pass the class. Now that I have been using these patters for a long time I can type faster than some people who use the home row method. To this day, I still do not have the entirety of the letter placements memorized. Each of the tricks I do use every day I no longer think of as tricks, but as a normalcy so I have a hard time pin pointing out what is a trick and what is normal to everyone else. I just do them without thinking.
I may have learned to live my dyslexia, but I still battle with it every day. I have a hard time telling my lefts from my rights and I constantly mix up the letters ‘p’ and ‘h,’ and ‘d’ and ‘b.’ I do not read at the normal speed for my age but I never give up. I work hard at what I do and constantly strive to get better. At the age of six I promised myself to never learn to read, but I am glad I did not listen. Reading and writing mean a lot to me and I would not be able to express myself without them. I have told myself that when I get older I would like to publish a book. That would be the ultimate triumph. Growing up with dyslexia was an emotional rollercoaster but I would not be me without it. Dyslexia made me who I am but I do not let it make up me. I now control my dyslexia. It does not control me. When I tell people I am dyslexic they say there are sorry, but I no longer think of it as something bad. It shaped me and taught me how to love books in a whole different way from everyone else. I believe I appreciate books more than most because I work harder to enjoy them. If it were not for my dyslexia I do not think I would enjoy reading as much as I do.
C. L. S.