The Gift of Reading

"To be successful at reading comprehensio...

“To be successful at reading comprehension, students need to …” (Photo credit: Ken Whytock)

You may be surprised to learn this, but I did not read my first book all the way through until I was nineteen years of age. Can you believe it? Part of this reason was because I was a very slow reader mostly due to my comprehension deficit. As a result, I got bored with the story and I got lost in the descriptions.

I realized much later that my slow comprehension was a result of my hearing ability or inability. I always scored very low in both reading and comprehension academically. I often had to re-read a paragraph and had trouble retaining or processing information. At first, I didn’t understand the correlation between reading and comprehension. I mean, when I read, I wasn’t listening to anyone; I was using my eyes to receive the information.

The problem is when a child is born with a hearing impairment or loses part of their hearing at a young age, their brain functions differently than a person whose has normal hearing. Unlike persons with normal hearing who receive and process information simultaneously, a child who is hard of hearing needs to focus first on receiving all the information needed. Then they process the information. It’s a two part technique; gather information, then analyze information. That’s not to say that everyone with a hearing impairment has the same level of comprehension or learning abilities or disabilities. Truth is, there are different levels of comprehension and some who are hard of hearing may be better at simultaneously processing information than others. But for me, it was more difficult and affected most of my academic studies.

At nineteen years old, my grandmother handed me a book. She said, “I think you will like this.” I told her that I wasn’t a very good reader and that I had never finished a book yet. But… I did agree to take the book home.

As I began to read a few pages, I became hooked into the story and the characters. Part of what interested me was the fact that this book was based on a true story. The author told of a story about two adolescent friends who got transported to concentration camps, then got separated by the horror of the holocaust, and then found each other many years later in America. It was truly a story of love and triumph, destiny and fate, strength and perseverance. I remember how happy I was when I read the last page. Not only because of this great story of two ordinary people overcoming enormous obstacles against all odds but because I finished my first book. I was thrilled that I accomplished something. To some, this may seem menial, but for me this was a huge achievement.

Sadly, to this day, I cannot remember the title of that first book. However, what I do remember is this. It was a small paperback with a picture of two hands and a long stem red rose on a black book cover background. My grandmother, who was born Germany, knew I liked roses and was hoping that would draw me into this story.

This book helped me discover what interested me, the genre I liked. Apparently, I liked true stories, autobiographies, memoirs, self-help and historical type books. Once I knew what I liked to read, I began to fill my brain with information. The more I read, the better I got. Reading and comprehending became much easier.

I’m thankful to the author who wrote this inspiring story. What a wonderful skill it is to share a story and have others share in that tale with you. To experience someone else’s life, joys, or pains. In true life, we may not have that opportunity. Reading helps us connect with people around the world. It allows us to walk in another’s shoes for a moment in time and understand more about our fellow human beings (past and present). It may evoke compassion in us to see someone’s heartache or it may bring out the fire in us and help us believe that we, too can accomplish anything in our own life. Or maybe it helps us to appreciate the life we have. Either way, I am grateful to all the writers out there as we continue to participate, giving and receiving, in this circle of storytelling.

Mostly I’m thankful to my grandmother. I would have missed out on so many stories if she had not shared that one little paperback with me. She gave me a perfect gift that day. Not just a gift of the book but the gift of reading, a lifetime of reading.BeFunky_GMOMMMA.jpg