(Ten Year Old Me)
I was a late reader. My family moved around a lot during my early education. I repeated the second grade and still could not read. Eventually, at my mother’s insistence, and I do mean insistence, testing was done. It turned out all of that time, no one knew I was dyslexic. Once it was discovered, the school knew how to teach me to read. I did not read my first full book until I was almost ten years old. It was beyond difficult to catch up to my peers. I would spend hours at the kitchen table doing reading homework and essay writing. I remember thinking it was some sort of cruel punishment that the adults in my life had devised.
Eventually, I did catch up and then surpassed my peers when it came to reading and writing. Yet, I did not love reading. It was something that I did for school, not enjoyment. Then one day it all changed. My parents rented the film Misery with Kathy Bates. I was about sixteen at the time and the film rocked my world, I had never seen anything like it. My dad who was a constant reader said, “You should read the book, it is way better than the movie.”
The next day I went to the library and checked out the book. To me, it felt like a mountain to climb, it was a big book. It just so happened that I had to complete a Saturday school the following weekend. It was basically a classroom where we all sat without any lessons being taught. We had to entertain ourselves quietly. I had decided to bring the library book with me, I had nothing better to do. The bell rang for the start of the day and I pulled out the book. I was transported to Paul Sheldon’s world, with his captor Annie Wilks, the words immersed me into their world. I had never had a reading experience like this before. I literally read the book through the entire day. Even though I already knew the story, from seeing the film, I could not put the book down. I was hooked.
When it was time to go home, once I got in the door, I went to my room and read late into the night. The next morning I woke bleary-eyed from staying up reading. I had never stayed up all night reading a book! I had finished the entire book. It might not seem like a big deal that I read a book but to me it was. I had never read an adult book all the way through. Over the next year, I made my way through the works of Stephen King. I owe a lot to him, his works taught me to love reading. I think I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I even read his book On Writing. I did not have any interest in being a writer at that time, I read it because he wrote it. I branched out from his works and read anything I could get my hands on.
Fast forward almost twenty years, very rarely am I not reading a book or several at a time. My nightstand is covered in stacks of books. I have read all sorts of books, fiction, and non-fiction. The only time in my adult life where I was not actively reading was when my children were born, I just did not have the bandwidth to read and stay awake. I longed for the days when I could sit still long enough to read and not fall asleep.
When I hit the save button book on the first book I ever wrote, a profound thought struck me, I, the dyslexic girl who couldn’t read or write just wrote a book. I had hated writing so much as a small child that I would have never thought I would have written something by choice let alone an entire book. As I sat at my computer looking at that word count and the work on the screen I began to cry. I had done something that ten-year-old Jackie would have thought impossible. It was a life-changing moment.
Now when I am crippled with self-doubt in the writing process, I think of myself at ten. I keep going for her because she is smart and she is capable. So to all of the kids out there who think they can’t or hate to read, you are smart, you can do it. You just have to find the right thing to read, keep searching, I promise it is worth it.