Confessions of a Bibliophile #5
How I Became a Bibliophile,
From Dyslexic to Addict
I have been asked by some of my readers to explain how I went from being a dyslexic to a reading addict. I was originally tested for learning disabilities in grade one in 1976. That initial testing was inconclusive. So I repeated grade one, then in grade two my teacher insisted on and pushed for me to be retested. In January of 1978 during my second testing I was diagnosed with a dual form of dyslexia. Dyslexia is a genre of diseases and it is like saying you have the flu. With my dual form I could spell words out loud correctly and put them on paper incorrectly, then spell them out loud a second time looking letter for letter at the paper and not recognize the error. So I left my normal class each week for a few hours for assistance, and was passed each year into the next grade. Towards the end of grade seven my parents sent me for private testing. I was reading at only a grade three level.
My parents enrolled me in a private summer school program eight hours a week, for the whole summer break. It was an intensive program with low student-to-teacher ratios. Each day we did three reading tests. We read out loud for a set amount of time, then we lost words from our word count for any wrong words when we read the passage, and for any wrong comprehension questions on the passages. Prior to this I had not read any books from cover to cover. I made it through school by being a good listener in class, renting the movies, or asking other people in the class. During this course I went from reading at a grade three level to reading at a university level, and from reading about 30 words per minute to reading over 600 words per minute. Now to put that into perspective, here are North American Reading Averages:
Grade 3-4 Student 60-80wpm
Senior-elementary student 120-180wpm
High-school student 200wpm
Average Adult 200wpm
University student 325wpm
Graduate student 400wpm
Average Speed Reader 500-1500wpm.
The average adult rate is the same for everyone, even for university graduates. Once people are not reading as much or as intensely as they used to, their reading rate atrophies. Yet all of this only took care of my ability to read. Because I had spent so many years behind others I was still behind in my writing, and still had the problem with letters reversing while writing. Using a computer helped it to some extent but when I am really tired it even shows up when using a keyboard. However, at the end of the course, I started reading, realized there was a whole world in books I had been missing, and immediately I was hooked.
At first I read mostly science fiction and fantasy - the likes of Robert A. Heinlien, Piers Anthony, Steven Brust, Roger Zelazny, Edgar Rice Burrows and more. Then by about grade ten I was reading classics, Greek dramas, Thomas Hardy, complete works of Shakespeare and just about anything I could lay my hands on. I became an addict in the true sense of the word. I would find an author I liked and read everything he or she wrote.
I went on to be retested for my learning disability, to establish baselines for academic accommodations, in 1982 and again in 1989.
To be honest, if you had told me five years ago I would be a published author, and now a columnist, I would have laughed at you. With the learning disability I never even dreamed of being a writer. Now I have published over 200 book reviews in 7 different publications, written news and features articles, written two three-part serial features - the first on WSIB and the second on Bone Marrow - and all by chance. A few years back I was working at Chapters and I started getting books before they came out, from contacts at publishing houses. I would write reviews that they could pull quotes from for sales and marketing. After about four months of this I thought, "Why not try to submit these to Imprint?" Most newspapers have book reviews, and I had not seen any in the paper in a long time, usually just CD or movie reviews. So I wrote the then Editor-in-Chief and that first summer had two book reviews in almost every issue.
I love to read. It is probably my favorite pastime, or tied with playing on computers (but that is a different column for fall term). I always carry a knapsack with at least two books, a journal and pencil case. In the early years of my marriage I was defined as 'the reader'. The question at gatherings was always: 'Who's that in the corner reading?' and the answer was: 'Oh, that's Andrea's husband.' I almost feel naked without a book and a journal in which to make notes. Even in the last few years, with having children, my reading has only gone up each year. I read everything - fitness, self-help, theology, fiction, science fiction. I truly am a book addict. That is the story of how I became one, and I never knew what I would find between the pages.
(First published in Imprint 2009-06-26.)
Friday, June 26, 2009
Confessions of a Bibliophile #5
Posted by Steven R. McEvoy at 12:31 PM