I watch the numbers swirl on the paper in front of me. None of what I am reading makes sense. Is this a foreign language? I look around in a panic, as my heart starts racing. I start to experience tunnel vision, as I try to focus on the next equation. Why can't I decipher the secret code in front of me? This is my nightmare. I am in math class.
I imagine this is how my son feels when he is faced with a hard text. He might not want me to share this with you, so let's keep this our little secret. Evan has struggled with reading ever since I can remember. Thankfully, his first grade teacher picked up on it during the first week of school and he has been receiving help ever since.
His struggles are something I didn't understand. Reading always came so easily for me. My mother always brags that I was reading books when I was four. I remember sitting on my grandpa's knee, at barely three or four years old while he read the Daily News. I would sound out the headlines and read all the advertisements. The comics were my favorite section. When I went off to first grade, I was so bored. I remember, even at six years old, raising my hand and telling my teacher she made a grammatical error on the blackboard. I never completed my work, as I stared out the window and doodled in the columns. I missed many a recess, having to go sit in the fourth grade to complete my work. I loved going up there because it was so much more interesting. Sometimes, I purposely wouldn't finish my assignment so I could go and listen to the fourth grade teacher teach the class about the civil war or read a book more challenging than "Hop on Pop."
My teacher did not know how totally unimpressed I was with the first grade curriculum. I imagine she thought I was not ready for first grade. That is, until she started cutting articles out of the New York Times Science Section and pinning them to the bulletin board. I was lucky to sit right next to the colorful yellow and orange paper covered cork board. As she was putting the last thumbtack in she turned around to see me mouthing the words. Quickly she took the article and me to her desk. "Read this," she said. Excitedly, I started to read to her. She cut another article out, and placed it in my folder with a note to my mother. When I arrived home, I pulled out the clipping and wrote three facts that I learned in my notebook. I will never forget that article about the Gypsy Moth. After that, I never procrastinated about my schoolwork again.
With reading, there is a disconnect between Evan's eyes and his brain. It is the only way I can describe it. Despite it all, he brings home wonderful grades. Evan is my hardest worker. He needs to be, following in the shadow of a sister who has everything come naturally to her. His coping mechanism is being extremely meticulous and organized. He is the type of child who will lay his clothes out the night before and make sure his school bag is packed and ready to go as soon as his homework is completed.
Today, I went to see Evan compete in The Battle Of The Books. At the beginning of the year, the kids who were interested were given a list of ten books to read. At their meetings, the moderator facilitated question and answer sessions based on the setting, plot, and characters of each book. When Evan first signed up for the team, I worried he wouldn't be allowed to participate due to his low reading comprehension scores. I hoped they wouldn't deny him the chance to try. Would this be over his head? On the contrary, this was a great experience for Evan. He read each book enthusiastically, made note cards, and filled out question and answer sheets. The discussions and note taking exercises taught him how to overcome his obstacles. With hard work and determination, anything is possible.
The team might not have won a trophy, but Evan shone this morning. I couldn't be prouder of my boy.