When reading is a struggle.
I write this journal entry to offer hope and encouragement to those who have struggled with illiteracy at an early age. When a child is illiterate, even basic classes can be challenging in school. If the struggling child is not prepared and given the proper support and tools to master each lesson, a feeling of inferiority may develop. I talk from experience because it happened to me as a child.
The feelings associated with illiteracy.
Any written word on the pages of books caused me deep frustration and insecurities. There was never a wordy book that swept me away into an adventure. Quite the contrary, because I never learned how to read correctly as a child in school, I struggled.
Because of my childhood illiteracy, those feelings of inadequacy never went away causing panic attacks, anxiety, and the looming sense of doom. As I evolved as a student, my early traumas lead me to question my intelligence and often left me frustrated. My abilities to keep up with my peers became an issue.
By not fully comprehending my assignments, all of my classes were impacted. My literacy insecurities created a gut-wrenching knot any time I sat down to complete my homework, write a report, or whenever I was asked to explain my work in class. It was a bit like doomsday every day.
Inspiration through visual books.
There was, however, one kind of book I couldn’t get enough of the beautifully bound and photographed coffee table books. As profound and wordy books were a challenge for me, my anxiety and fear of the written word slowly lifted as I discovered these picturesque coffee table books. To me, coffee table books were like a choreographed movie on paper which I flipped through over and over again.
Discovering my happy place.
In our modest home growing up, coffee table books were a luxury. Though my family was working class, luckily I had access to two of the most beautiful bookstores in Manhattan in the most prestigious area of NYC. Scribner and Brentano’s became my regular haunts. I spent countless hours in those 5th Ave. stores whenever my mother would bring me to work with her.
The walls of the bookstores were lined tall with rows upon rows of perfectly cataloged volumes of books. I often watched as the ladder was pushed back and forth, squeaking along the rollers, by sales clerks helping to locate each requested book for the fashionable elite of the city. As a child, I distinctly remember pretending to belong to that upper-crust. Little did I know that illiteracy is closely linked with poverty and the stigma that society places on those of us who struggle with it is laziness.
Even though I struggled to read, in those hallowed bookstores my love of books was piqued as I visually learned to appreciate the story the photos told. I discovered books on photography, fashion, art, architecture, cooking, and gardening. By consciously skimming those great big books, I indirectly was forcing myself to read with the added benefit of training and developing an aesthetic style of my own. As a result, over time, my confidence and self-esteem grew.
This is the first picture book I ever bought with my hard earned money. And to this day it sits proudly on my coffee table.
I realize now that, as a child struggling with illiteracy, I was changing my life by simply visiting those bookstores and immersing myself in the space. By nurturing my own curiosity I proactively took small steps toward self-improvement. Even as a young girl I inherently knew that I needed visual stimulation to improve my reading skills and spark my love of books. By not giving up, I also chose to NOT stay stuck in the labels that society placed on me as an illiterate child.
By sharing my experience with you, I hope that you too can rise above the stigmas or labels that challenge you. Don’t let setbacks or social shaming interfere with you pushing yourself to reach your highest potential. As you can see, I’m OK with my writing now. Each time a blog post or a newsletter gets written I am proud. They might not be perfect, but then what in nature is? I also have the rest of my life to continue practicing, learning and growing.
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