Worth the Tears: The Story of a Struggling Reader

 As Katie stared at the bold black letters on the page, tears dripped down her cheeks. Her teacher wasn’t surprised. This was the daily routine.

Every day they worked on reading together. It seemed like it was never going to get easier. Katie wondered why her teacher couldn’t just read to her; she liked listening to stories! Learning to read on her own, however, seemed just painful. 

It wasn’t that Katie’s teacher hadn’t laid a good foundation. They had gone over phonics thoroughly.  Still, only three-letter words seemed hard. Katie’s dramatic emotions didn’t help. She even declared that she didn’t want to read. And every day the tears came.

Thankfully, Katie’s teacher could see beyond the surface. Katie’s conflict ran deeper than letters and sounds. Unlike some children, Katie’s greater struggle to read wasn’t brought on by letters moving backwards in her head or a non-verbal bent. A big part of Katie’s struggle was that she couldn’t see. The letters blurred together, not just because of her tears and even with the best glasses she could get. Along with that, Katie was learning a lesson even harder than reading: Because of her vision issues, she was different from other kids her age. While they might fight to remember when an e is silent, she might fight to simply see that it was an e and not a c. That realization hurt. Of course, the fact that she could see at all was something to be thankful for, but a six-year-old’s life isn’t always governed by logic. (Actually, no one’s is…)

Knowing all that, her teacher did battle with her and those BOB books. Sure, she probably pulled out her hair a few times and even shed a few frustrated tears of her own, but she wanted Katie to read normal print books if she ever could.

Mercifully, the teacher got a little help. A gentleman read to Katie on a regular basis. She had been read to before – that’s how she knew she liked hearing stories –  but as the days went by she slowly discovered that books were her ticket to adventures and the places and people she wanted to learn about. She just had to take hold of it.

Months of tedium and tears continued. Then one day, all the pieces came together. Katie decided she wanted to take hold of her ticket to adventure and board the train herself. There were so many people and places she wanted to learn about! She also figured out that if she could get up early and snuggle into her favorite blue chair, she had the perfect place to read. There was no one to mind that she held the book two inches away from her nose. She read books like the Little House series that she had loved listening to and new mysteries She felt rather satisfied when she read a biography of Daniel Boone that had hundreds of pages. Lessons in Braille fed her new-found love for letters, even though she continued to read mostly with her eyes

And she kept reading. Through two international moves, junior high, high school, and right on through college when she gained her BA. By this time Katie knew that she relished stories. Even more than that, she knew that she loved God’s story.

You see, Katie had been given a key to not only escapades and faraway places but also to God’s Word, another book she read for herself. Within those pages, she learned that God doesn’t make mistakes and that even if we don’t understand why He gives us certain circumstances and life may be just plain hard, He is worthy of our trust. Stories from history that she read gave her hope that God can use even the challenges in our lives for good purposes.

Now Katie still reads – though not as much as she might like – and contacts help her see better, but she also seeks to share stories with others to give them at least a glimpse of the hope she’s been given. 

Maybe not every struggling reader will be like Katie. Maybe God has other stories to tell in some of their lives. But, for all of you who are or will be traipsing through tedium and tears this school year, I hope it’s an encouragement. Teaching a child to read – to whatever extent he or she is able – is a great gift. You never know what God might have in store for your student. I think Katie and her teacher decided it was worth the tears, don’t you?

And just who was Katie’s teacher? Of all the people in the whole wide world, it was her mom. And the gentleman who read to her? He was her dad. 

I should know because I am Katie. Funny how a girl by any other name can be-one-and-the-same, isn’t it? And, yes, I’d say it was worth the tears. I’m thankful Mom and Dad thought so, too. 

 

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