Learning to Read

Delta Winds cover 2017Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


Learning to Read

Elliott Wayne Rinehart

As a child, I had dyslexia, which made it hard for me to learn. When I was ten, my mother hired a tutor named Mrs. Pam, who for the next two years taught me how to read and write. Twice a week my mother would drive me to her house for lessons. I would often cry on the way because I hated to learn. But Mrs. Pam had a drawer in which she kept prizes, which I could earn by doing my homework. That drawer was my only motivation to do my homework. By the end of the first year, she had so well engrained in me that learning is good that I didn't care as much for the drawer as I did for the lessons. I learned to associate homework with reward, which made me look forward to class.

When I first started taking lessons, I would learn one letter per class. That meant it took me thirteen weeks to learn the alphabet. After the alphabet, I took on the next challenges: a sentence, then a paragraph, then a three-paragraph essay. To learn all that took me two years! At the start, I didn't care to ever learn to read; all I wanted from life was to be left alone so I could play Legos. But at the end of the two years, all I wanted from life was to read. If I could have, I would have done nothing but learn.

Since my days with Mrs. Pam, I have loved to learn. Even before I learned to read, I would listen to books. Not just kids' books. I would listen to history books and the classics. I listened to The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S Lewis four times before I learned to read. I also listened to the whole series of books by Susan Wise Bauer called The Story of the World. I stayed up late at night just to grasp that last bit of knowledge of the world before falling asleep, dreaming of the Mongols or some moment in history. When I moved on from Mrs. Pam's teaching, I was able to read at college level and write at my grade level. Because of my love of knowledge, the association of rewards with reading continued to affect me throughout high school. But reading took the limelight, while writing was left in the dirt.

I didn't put much thought into my writing until last year when I took a political science class at Delta College. I learned that I could voice my opinion with well-written essays. I learned that writing could be rewarding, too, if I would just write about what I cared about and did my best. Recently a teacher of mine had me read an essay entitled "Grit," which sheds some light on my life. Angela Duckworth, the author, believes "Grit" is what makes people able to persevere. My childhood tutor taught me "Grit," and that is what makes me complete this assignment. If you actually want to change and learn how to learn, then read up on "Grit."

Now, because of Mrs. Pam and my love of knowledge, I am able to read more difficult writing by authors such as Voltaire, Theodore Roosevelt, Jane Austen, and my favorite, Charles Dickens. With works by these authors under my belt, you would think that I would be a better writer, but no, I am not. I hope to become a better writer one day. To help accomplish that goal, I am enrolled in a college English course at Delta College. One day I hope to be in a place with my writing ability where I can write a book-even teach an English class.

Since my childhood, my ambitions have changed as well as my inhibitions. For instance, now I actually have a plan for the future. One day I hope to be a missionary. I plan on going to various places in the world-perhaps India this spring, Tanzania in a few years, and many more places around the world. If I had not been tutored when I was younger and learned to read and write, where would I be? I still have inhibitions to overcome such as writer's block. One day with "Grit," sheer will, and my love of knowledge, I know that I will be able to overcome that as well. Because of my ability to read and write, I have a hope for the future; that is why I am who I am today. The ability to read and write has changed me and has defined who I am.