Guest post by Tonya Spitler
When Reading is Hard
I learned to read at a very early age. Reading was always my hobby, my favorite pastime, and my escape. So, when I had children, I envisioned bonding over the shared joy of opening a book and diving in.
I did all of the things. I read to them frequently, took them to story time at the local library, and had bookshelves full of options for them to look at. We had family read aloud time, listened to audiobooks in the car, and genuinely enjoyed spending time reading together. As a homeschooling family, we spent hours reading together.
All of the experts said children are made readers on the laps of their parents. I took that advice very seriously.
Learning To Read
Learning to read didn’t seem to come as easily for them as it had for me. They struggled to sound out words. Words they recognized one day, were completely foreign to them the next. I was frustrated, they were frustrated, and it seemed we were getting nowhere.
It wasn’t until my oldest was finishing first grade when I finally stumbled across a blog that talked about dyslexia and a light bulb clicked. We began working intensively with phonics programs geared toward children with learning difficulties. We tried all the tricks: colored reading strips, index cards with a whole big enough for one word at a time, glasses, brain training… you name it, we tried it.
Over the years, I attended workshop after workshop learning all I could about dyslexia and tips and tricks to help my children not only learn to read, but to fall in love with reading the way I had.
It was during one of those workshops that I heard something that would change the course of our reading adventure.
Some people read better with their ears. - Andrew Pudewa
This simple statement allowed me to step back and realize that reading, while vital, can look like a lot of things.
I started focusing on finding books that my children could listen to as they read along with a physical copy. We still worked diligently to learn to read fluently, and made huge strides, but falling in love with reading had to be separated from the process of learning to read.
Adding audio books and continuing family read aloud time allowed for my children to continue to fall in love with exploring new people, places, and ideas through the written word. They came to look forward to reading time, and that made my bookish heart swell.
What about "grade level?"
After seeking professional diagnosis, we discussed at length what it means to be on grade level and what would happen if they were never able to get there. My greatest fear was they would be held back from achieving their dreams if they couldn’t read at a college level.
This is when we discovered the accommodations offered to people with reading difficulties. Colleges often offer several options to help students be successful. Most college textbooks can be found on audio now, and professors will often share their slides if asked.
Encouragement for the New Year
As a new school year begins, I encourage you to consider separating the love of reading from the act of reading from a page. If your children dislike reading, find audiobook options they may enjoy. Make it a family affair. Encourage them to continue to grow their reading muscles but take care to never make them feel like they aren’t trying hard enough. Perhaps institute a family reading time.
Even if your children love to read, there is value in family reading and in offering multiple ways to “read.” Encourage your children to find the types of books that keep them flipping the page.
Whether they read with their eyes, or their ears, I hope this year, your children fall in love with books.
Guest post by author William Carter
Be the Rainbow
My freshman year of college was hard, like really hard.
October 2007 of my senior year of high-school, I was involved in a head-on collision with a Suburban, and I suffered a brain injury, a stroke, a ruptured spleen, a collapsed lung, and I was placed in a coma. 2007 and the first part of 2008 were some of the most challenging months of my life. I woke from the coma to confusion. My short-term memory was absolute trash. I was in diapers. I had left-side neglect. I lost a fourth of the vision in my left eye. I had a shaved head with a scar down the back where they took out a chunk of my skull to help with the swelling (it would be returned to me in December). My left fingers shook if I exerted them too much. I was in a wheelchair, and I wanted nothing more than to get better. In fact, this was my simple prayer every night before I drifted off to sleep.
Though by the time August rolled around, things were a little bit easier. I graduated high school My wheelchair had been replaced by a shuttered limp. I was going to college. Though, I was but a shadow of who I had been before the accident, and I all I wanted was just a chance to be back in his skin. Please God, just give me one day as that AP student, that president of the drama club, that champion debater, that social butterfly. Please God, take this away. Just take this me away and give me him.
The Promise of College
So, college had this promise to it. You see, my friends at high school now knew this new me, this me who would forget what was just said, this me who would get mixed up or confused, this me who would shrink to the floor and eventually wish for a sudden abduction out of most social environments. But college? No one knew me. No one I knew was going to Oglethorpe. I could reinvent myself. I could create the person I want to be.
Of course, though, I still had a brain injury. I still was the same mixed-up, limping, awkward kid who was living post subdural hematoma, post stroke. Then, you throw college classes on top of that? My first-year writing course was kicking my butt. There were reading quizzes every day, and I’m reading, but I’m failing. So, what am I to do? The only thing I can do: wake up at four in the morning and study every moment I can. I fail my first two papers. So, now I have no choice; I have to get A’s in my acting and music history classes, so I can still keep my scholarship. I don’t really have time to work on friendship. I go to the bible study, but I can’t do much else. I go to dining hall occasionally, but I mostly eat in my room. I am tired of looking for somewhere to sit. Also, I can’t afford to waste any time. I need to read. I need to study.
"I'm so tired."
In my room, I listen to music. Music has always been a comfort for me, and I’m in my bed, looking at my recent less than stellar grade on my recent paper (74), and the soft, comforting voice of Ingrid Michaelson floats in my ears,
“The bluebirds fly so high
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why oh then why can’t I?
Why, then oh why can’t I?”
And I want to cry. I want to just weep. Why can’t I? I’m so tired. I am so exhausted. I just want life to not be so hard anymore. I just don’t want to struggle anymore. I want to make friends. I want to enjoy college. College is fun, they say. College is the best time of your life, they say.
But they never had a brain injury. They never had to work four times as hard to get that B. They were not always wishing for that place somewhere else, somewhere over the rainbow.
That’s why the song has the impact and the staying power it does.
Life Goes On; fast or slow.
Many of us have had that time in our life where we want to be anywhere but now. Give me a time machine that takes me any place but this moment. Fast forward, fast forward, fast forward! And every time, you push this mental remote, everything just goes slower.
Life can go by very fast, but it can also go so painfully slowly, and you just will give anything to be somewhere else, anywhere away from now.
Now did not last forever. I did find some respite. God blessed me with friends, but even more, he blessed me with a safe place. I spent so much of my first semester freshman year feeling stupid. I did not enjoy my classes because they were just another place to feel less than, just another place to feel judged.
I Found a Rainbow
Then, my second semester rolled around. I began taking a Medieval and Tudor Drama Course. I was excited to take this course because, in the Fall, two short plays I wrote were performed by the student-led acting group, and this professor, Dr. Hornback, apparently loved them. He thought they were hilarious. A professor thinks my work is hilarious? How do I sign up for his course? Also, what does he teach?
So, I enrolled in Dr. Hornback’s course, and every day, I was happy to be there. He gave great lectures, but he would pause and answer my questions, and he supported my commentary on the plays we were reading. I wrote my own miracle play about Elisha and the bears, and he enjoyed it immensely. Now, I found a rainbow.
I know it sounds a bit cheesy, but if you haven’t lived it, you don’t know how important it is. I felt safe in his classroom. I felt smart in his classroom. I felt accepted in his classroom, and I enjoyed every day I was in it. I needed this man and his class. I needed a place that felt like an island in the midst of struggle.
Pay It Forward
Now, two master’s degrees later, I am a professor. This semester, a student said the most beautiful thing to me. One day, this student, aa student who has had a challenging life and was having a personally difficult semester, looked at me and said, “I smile every time I enter your class.”
I would be lying if I said my eyes didn’t well up a little.
He didn’t know just how much that meant to me. He didn’t know how much I needed such a place my freshman year. He had heard me talk about my injury, talk about my struggles in college, but he didn’t know just how this affirmed everything. I do think I was an empathetic person before my accident, but especially because of my accident, I try so hard to make my classroom a positive, supportive, safe place for all my students. I want to be the Hornback in their lives because I remember how much I needed it.
I think about that song from time to time, and I think about all the people in my life who were there when I needed them to be. I think how hard my graduate school experiences were because not was I recovering from a brain injury, but after the fact, I found out I was living with a heart condition. I think of the people who were safe, the people I knew I could count on to be that drop of land in the midst of a raging sea.
So, that is what I try to do, and I encourage everyone to do the same. Be the rainbow to those in your life. You don’t know how much someone desperately needs it. I was so overjoyed but also taken aback when my student told me that my class made him smile. I guess because I don’t think I have that much power, but the truth is, every one of us does.
If you’re a teacher, your students look to you. If you’re a boss, your employees look up to you. If you’re just a person in line at the supermarket, be the person who affirms that cashier, tries to brighten his or her day. Be the rainbow that helps someone not want to escape now for somewhere else. Be the rainbow that helps today be one worth living.
Post by Arielle Haughee
What's Causing Your Writer's Block?
Previously an elementary teacher, Arielle Haughee (Hoy) is a five-time RPLA-winning author and the owner of Orange Blossom Publishing. She is an editor, speaker, and coach. She is the author of The Complete Revision Workbook for Writers, the children’s books Grumbler, Joyride, Pling’s Party, and Sixth Sunday, the editor of the How I Met My Other anthology series, and the creator of the Focus Journal line of journals. She was also honored with the President’s Award from the Florida Writers Association in 2020.
She has a serious reading addiction, fantasy romance her absolute favorite, and loves nothing more than good conversation paired with a good wine. She is surrounded by males at home—a husband, two sons, and an energetic dog—and tries to integrate as much purple and flowers in the house as possible.
Priya Pai is a rising senior at Texas A&M University who enjoys writing in her free time. She is also an avid reader and spin class fanatic who can be found in either the library or her local spin studio. Her most favorite activity, however, is chasing her labradoodle, Cocoa, around. Read more of Priya's work: https://firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheryl Lynn West lives in Florida with her Samoyeds and rescue cats. She is author of Castle’s Capers: The Adventures of A Naughty Puppy and her recent book Gatherings: A Collection of Flash Fiction and Short Stories. Cheryl also published Remember Me, When This You See, a memoir of her husband’s grandfather in rural Tennessee in the early 1900s.
Previously an elementary teacher, Arielle Haughee (Hoy) is a multi-genre author living in Florida. She has a serious reading addiction, fantasy romance her absolute favorite, and loves nothing more than good conversation paired with a good wine. She is surrounded by males at home—a husband, two sons, and an energetic dog—and tries to integrate as much purple and flowers in the house as possible.
Arielle is an editor, speaker, and owner of a small press. She was also previously the Executive Vice President of the Florida Writers Association.
Learn more about her at www.ariellehaughee.com
She is also on Facebook and Instagram (@orange_blossom_books).
In the world of novel writing, there are two kinds of writers: Plotters and Pantsers
Katy Berritt started writing, a historical with herself as the heroine, of course, when she was nine-years-old. Since there were no computers in those days, all she got out of the exercise was twenty hand-written pages and a blister on her middle finger. It would be another thirty years before she took another shot at a story.
Katy writes romantic comedy. She loves to make people laugh and feel all warm and gooey inside which is why her motto is Love, Life, Laughter. Katy loves quirky heroines and not so perfect heroes. Her debut novel The Candy Capers is available now.
Katy lives in New York City, a city rich in history, weird residents and fantastic neighborhoods, a treasure trove to draw upon when creating her stories.
You can find Katy Berritt on her website, Facebook, Instagram, along with Goodreads and Bookbub.