Friday, February 24, 2012

Why This Dyslexic Reads Books

This year I enjoyed reading books like the Cookie Monster eats cookies.

Reading has always been fun, but I think what really sparked this adventure was the institution of a new policy and reading a book that was sitting on my shelf for almost eight years.

Before I tell you about the book and the policy, I want to tell you the story of a cute little boy with dark hair and dazzling brown eyes. This heroic lad would impress ladies at the check-out counter because “he had such beautiful brown eyes!” In fact, if you have a chance to talk with this fellow about it today, his look will become wistful and he will wish that he got a dollar every time someone said that; because, he thinks, he would now be a millionaire.

However, as dashing as this young chap was, all his charm would fade when Valentine's Day would come around. Why? Because fear gripped his heart at the idea of writing a Valentine's Day card. It was not fear of girls, nor was it shyness or disdain. What made our hero quake was the fact that he could not write.

It was not the letters; oh, he knew the alphabet backwards. It was spelling. He could not spell or even read. He was dyslexic. Being dyslexic is hard. You don't always think sentences in order. You mess up math very easily. You make friends for their reading skills. (Okay, I'll admit it, the “you” here is me.)

I am dyslexic, and I love books. In other words, I am a silversmith without a hand. I am a painter without use of arms. I am a deaf composer.

Fortunately, there are two heroes in this story: my mom and dad. They decided to homeschool their little ruffian and spend painful hours they could have spent much more pleasantly slowly teaching their boy. I do not use the term hero lightly for my mom and dad who gave hours upon hours encouraging, helping, and loving. It makes me tear-up just thinking about it...

I still don't honestly know when it is “normal” for kids to start reading. I was 11 when it finally clicked. I was struggling to read Dr Seuss, but even so, I decided that I was going to conquer a chapter of the Hardy Boys. Reading is still slow work for me, and audiobooks are my friends. But despite it all, it is worth it.

So all these years later, let me tell you about a book that I doubt you'd like: Caesar’s War Commentaries. I paid a buck for it at a library sale. It is somewhat dull. I had to force myself to read ten or so pages a night, but one night it hit me. Although the battles, places, and people involved were just a blur of names and dates, there had to be a reason that Caesar wrote this book. I began to look for it, and I was shocked at how clear it became. He was writing to those still in Rome to remind them that he existed, that he loved Rome, that he fought for justice, and that he was always loyal to his friends it was his public relations strategy. He could fit in here, in Washington D.C.

At that moment history became alive. I cannot believe in the idea that man has “progressed” because we have Caesars today. Although 2,000 years have passed, only technology has changed.

The books I read now have more meaning. Each book, regardless of author or setting, tells me more about my world, about me.

This inspired me to institute a simple loose policy, namely: take turns. Read a non-fiction book, then read a fiction book. It is a simple little rule, but it creates variety, spice, depth, and knowledge.

I can read about Pearl Harbor one week, Percy Jackson the next; the lives of Margaret Thatcher and the Hunchback of Notre Dame; the violence of Plutarch's Lives alongside the violence of the Hunger Games; a biography of Jesus contrasted with Teddy Roosevelt’s autobiography; I can read about Ender's Game and a rule book to a new board game!

(Okay, maybe that last one is a stretch, but hey, it's reading!)

The point is that reading may be hard for me, but like many other good things in this life, with the pain comes gain.

Do you like to read? What is the best book you've read in the last six months?

-Jeremiah Lorrig
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