How the practice of writing helped a reader

Hello, kind readers.

When it comes to literacy, reading and writing go hand in hand; and just as text can be found in different forms (novels, essays, columns, poetry, text messages, notes), writing can be just as diverse. It can be found in the many pages of a book, or the few words of a poem; the scribbles of a doctor’s prescription or the text LOL from a teenager (laugh out loud). Some are meant for a wide audience, some for few or only one other, and some that are so personal that it is private and possibly never shared.

In a previous column (The Express, Feb, 10, 2018), I encouraged readers to keep a family journal, and now I ask that you consider a personal journal by sharing not my words, but rather the words sent to me in an email …

“This past week you featured journaling as a family thing to do. This subject prompted me to write you today. One reason is my own experience with struggling to read during my younger years. The other reason is because I have been journaling most of my life and find it to be very helpful to my own personal growth.

“As a child, I suffered immensely because I couldn’t learn to read like all the other kids in my class. It was embarrassing and painful. Kids called me stupid and retarded, and I got into a lot of fights over this. Back then, even the teachers didn’t know what to do with me. My sixth-grade teacher even tried to give me different spelling words than the rest of the class, and I still failed the test.

“My point is that if I had listened to those kids… I might have quit school. But instead, a still, small voice inside of me kept saying, “You are not stupid. Keep trying. Never give up.” I believe that was the voice of God. To God be the glory.

“One of the downsides to not being like other kids with regard to learning was that I felt that no one understood me. I felt alone. I felt like no one was listening to what I was saying. I felt as though I had no voice. Intuitively, I began writing letters to God. This was the start of my journaling experience at a young age. Sharing my most intimate feelings, frustrations and dreams on those pages… expressing myself with pen and paper opened up a whole new world to me, and it taught me about creative thinking and writing. And I began to enjoy reading too.

“In the beginning, my spelling was barely legible, but I believed that God understood what I was writing. As my journaling progressed, I started looking up words in a dictionary. It was this process that helped me remember those and other words. Just like you pointed out in your column – practice, practice, practice.

“I am hopeful that by sharing my story with you, even anonymously, that it could be beneficial to you and your readers. In other words, I give you permission to share it with your readers. I hope my story is helpful to others who struggle with reading and writing. Remember, life is a marathon, not a sprint.”

These are powerful words, shared by one of our neighbors, written with the hope of encouraging all who read them. I am encouraged and grateful, and I am proud to live in a community where citizens are willing to share private, even painful experiences in order to help others.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” And so I say to the generous reader who shared so eloquently, thank you for doing both.

Next time, STONE Soup Literacy may look a little ROCKY. Until then, I would love to hear from you. Email me at kathy@stonesoupliteracy.com.

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Kathy Gephart is a retired public school educator and the founder of Stone Soup Literacy (www.stonesoupliteracy.com) whose mission is to build readers, one community at a time. Email Kathy at stonesoupliteracy@gmail.com.

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