A Learned Superpower by Becky McDonogh

We forget how many times each day we need to read — even a simple sign, tag, or logo. Imagine being an adult and unable to order dinner off a menu. People often forget how difficult or easy it was to learn to read, but I remember. For me reading seemed like a superpower that I couldn’t achieve.  Reading never came easy to me, but through hard work I was able to overcome my challenges and become a great reader.

Not being able to read at eight years old was quite difficult, and I often felt isolated from the rest of the world. Reading was a skill that I didn’t have. From my point of view, everyone was growing up and I was being left behind. In addition to feeling isolated, I was often frustrated with myself, because I couldn’t do the things I wanted or needed to do. I had difficulty with my spelling homework because I didn’t know how to sound out the letters. Finally, I embarrassed myself by not being able to read. As a result, I kept it as a shameful secret. One of my many ways of keeping this concealed was to look at the pictures in a book and try to make up a story that matched them. Finally people started to notice I needed help with my reading.

In the middle of my 3rd grade year my mother hired a tutor for me. Her name was Lisa Mackey, and she looked like an electric cross between hippie and rocker style. When we knocked, Lisa flung open the door and I was greeted by a woman with wild blonde hair the color of light sunflower petals styled like a lion’s mane. She had aqua blue eyes and was dressed in bright colors. Her house was bright and warm with perfectly placed knickknacks everywhere and smelled of soft, earthy incense. It felt safe. I was excited because I was about to learn my superpower. It took me nine whole months to really learn how to read. We used flashcards, picture diagrams, and word recognition exercises. During the school year I saw her three times a week, but during the summer I saw her every day.

Finally after nine months of hard work, I was able to read. The first line I read was, “ Bob sat on the sled.” When I told my mother that I was able to read, she was overcome by tears of joy and relief. I remember her smile; it was full of pride. Those nine months were grueling, but the hard work made me a great, and sometimes even avid, reader.  Right then and there I realized that I had just learned a superpower.

Reading was always a challenge for me but with the help of a tutor I was able to become a great reader. Those nine months that it took me to become a good reader involved practicing everyday. Every minute that I practiced and challenged myself, made me become a better reader and person. I now know what a true challenge is, even if it seems inconsequential to others. This experience taught me to persist in order to overcome any trial that I am faced with. When I wanted to give up while playing water polo, I remembered that, like with reading, you have to persevere to become good at anything. I learned empathy for people with learning disabilities, because I have them. The challenges that you face now can only make you better when you are older. Remember that something you think is insignificant is actually a hidden superpower to others.


(Becky M. submitted this piece to EdRev 2018 and was awarded the 2nd prize for her work. Congrats Becky!)

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Tilden Preparatory School

Tilden Preparatory School is a college preparatory school for grades 6-12. We have campuses in Albany and Walnut Creek, California.

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