February 27, 2024

Learning to Read was a Struggle

Hello, I'm a writer, and I struggle to pronounce certain words and names that I don't know.

Hello, I'm a writer, and I do not have an extensive vocabulary.

Hello, I'm a writer, and I'm a horrible speller.

Hello, I'm a writer, and learning to read was a challenge.

I've shared in the past about how I am not a vocab or spelling wiz. (See: To Be a Writer, You Don't Need...To Be a Good Speller)

I've also casually commented and told others about how I don't know how to pronounce other people's names, especially if I've never come across that name and the spelling for that name before.

Don't even get me started on the name Louis. I get tripped up on that name every time. Without fail.

I want to talk more about how I struggled to read as a kid.

In first or second grade (I don't remember which), I was pulled out of my class two to three days a week and brought to a connected room with other dejected children from nearby classrooms so that we could practice reading. Being taken out of my class with one other student, who graduated from that humiliation quickly, was mortifying. I believe this is where my shyness and anxiety began.

In that room, the other dejected children and I would "play games" meant to teach us out to sound out letters and words (even just 'ch,' 'th,' etc.). The teachers looking at me, the other students figuring it out before I did, the pressure, the stress...it made me dislike reading all the more. I eventually did well enough so that I didn't have to attend those meetings anymore, but I was not confident.

Reading filled me with anxiety.

My next reading trauma happened when I was in fourth grade. That was when reading levels were introduced to us based on how well he did on computerized testing of stories we read. My reading level was low for my grade, not below my grade level but low nonetheless. 

I would watch the girl who sat across from me read The Babysitter's Club books. She would read one a day and take a test on it and pass, racking up points and improving her reading score. I did not read The Babysitter's Club books in fourth grade. My oldest sister had those books, and she was in like eighth grade at the time. Seeing this girl read those books put me to shame.

It was safe to say I hated reading at the time. I avoided it at all costs.

In fifth grade, the struggle continued, but something happened near the end of the year, and I don't quite remember what triggered it. All of a sudden, I had wanted to improve my reading skills. I started to read every book my teacher had in her classroom. I'll be honest, though. They were easy books, not chapter books. I read them, tested on them, and went on to the next.

Now that I think about it, I think my motivation was to increase my points before summer. There might've been an incentive involved. If there was, I don't have a clue as to what it was.

Anyway, the point is that I was picking up all sorts of books with a determination I hadn't had before, and gradually I was moving up to longer, harder books. Or, at least, books more suitable for my age/grade.

I wouldn't say I was a fan of reading at that time; I wasn't yet. It was still difficult for me, but I was getting better, and that was what counted.

Then one day in sixth grade, it happened. I got an idea for a story that changed the course of my life. 

To read more about that, take a little journey to this page on my website.

When I started seriously writing, and by that, I mean not a short story but an actual novel at the age of twelve, my relationship with reading changed. The more I wrote, the more I read, until both became passions of mine.

I still may not read the sort of advanced and complicated books that some people may think adults should be reading, but now it doesn't matter what reading level I have. I can read whatever books I want to read, and I do. I read children's books (from picture books to middle grade), graphic novels/manga, young adult books, and adult books in the genres that I enjoy, usually with some sort of romantic element, unless their non-fiction. And I can avoid those books with long words that I don't know.

Now, no one can shame me for how I read or what I read.

Hello, I'm a writer, and learning to read was a challenge.

But that doesn't make me a bad writer.

It makes me human.


  1. That's great that you started out struggling but eventually got proficient at reading. Anyone can. I think that which we struggle to achieve feels like a major achievement as opposed to things that come easily to us.

  2. I can related to a lot of this. I remember being in a reading group like that in the 2nd grade. And I still struggle with spelling and pronouncing certain words (and sometimes, when speaking, I will change the word so I won't have to pronounce a particular word. I am glad you stuck with it, for you create great stories.

  3. Hi Chrys - it's good to get these memories and that journey down. I've been fortunate and not struggled ... take care - with thoughts - Hilary


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