Dyslexia – A Mere Stumbling Block on the Path to Book Creation

“Peter is still getting his M’s and W’s mixed up.”

This was Peter’s kindergarten teacher four months ago. Peter is six. He should have known all of his letters a year ago. In fact, he did. So why the sudden trouble with these two? I was a bit disappointed when she told me, but I wasn’t surprised.

Peter has dyslexia. On top of that, his working memory does not function at 100%, making it difficult for him to retain everything we do to help him overcome his learning hurdles. It’s better than it was. This time last year, his working memory only functioned at about 20%, and he’s in an intensive program that’s helping, but it’s still a struggle.

So Peter and I practiced with M and W flashcards, and right about the time he got those two letters down, he slid back again and started having trouble with B and D. Peter is aware that he has a hard time reading. He knows his friends read books a couple levels beyond his capabilities. He groans whenever I make him read or do flashcards. Sometimes I’ll give him a night off and just read a book to him. The poor kid. Up until he had to start reading them himself, he had a love-love relationship with books.

I focus on Peter’s strengths. He’s good at math. He’s athletic. He can build anything, loves making inventions, and is very creative. But at the same time, I don’t want him to give up on reading, to think that it’s something a lot of people can do but is unattainable for him.

Then he happened to be watching the Disney Channel when Bella Thorne’s TTI came on. TTI’s (or “The Time I…”) are clips about some of the actors in Disney’s shows. I hadn’t seen Bella Thorne’s TTI since Peter was diagnosed.

Why does Bella Thorne’s particular TTI matter? Well, because she has dyslexia. She started talking about why reading was a challenge, and how she mixed up B and D and M and W. Peter turned to me, eyes alight, and said, “Hey! That’s just like me!”

It couldn’t have been more perfect.

I made sure to point out to him that she can read now, even though it’s a challenge.

I know it boggles Peter’s mind that I write. When I pulled my children’s book Hero out of mothballs earlier this year, I decided to involve Peter by using him as a first reader. I read it to him while he sat with me at my computer, looking at a screen with a bunch of symbols that he struggled to make sense of. With no illustrations to guide him, he didn’t connect with the story. I had to read passages twice and ask him questions about them to make them stick.

And then it hit me: Peter can draw. He may struggle to read Hero, but I knew if he helped illustrate it, he’d have some ownership. Even with dyslexia, he could still be a part of the book creation process.

Peter learning cursive

Peter learning cursive

If you’re a regular reader, you know that we did it (and you can read about it here). Peter is half-shy, half-proud when he helps me deliver a book. Even though he’s quick to say that it’s too tough for him to read (yet), he loves that his name is on the cover, that it’s our book. He even asked me to teach him cursive, so he can sign the inside cover.

Starting in the fall, I’m going to talk to elementary school students about writing and illustrating a picture book. I’m excited for them to know that a regular mom can make children’s books, but I’m even more excited to encourage them by telling Peter’s story. Books are for everyone – for bookworms like me, those who struggle like Peter, and everyone in between.

Don’t forget, through July 26th, all of my proceeds from Hero are going to WSB’s Care-a-Thon to benefit the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Click here for all the details, including where you can buy Hero in Northeast Florida. You can also get yours from Amazon.com, or message me for a signed copy.