Student’s struggle with reading teaches tenacious self-dicipline


Hope Smith

Words, the worst enemy: Hope Smith reads as books are piled in front of her.  Feature Photo by Madi Mertz
Words, the worst enemy: Hope Smith reads as books are piled in front of her.
Feature Photo by Madi Mertz
I’ve always detested reading. Even in elementary school, I remember hating trips to the school library because the teachers always made us check out a book, which just sat on my kitchen counter until it was due.
As I got older, I would blankly stare at articles and textbooks, either forcing myself to read them or just pretending ­­­­­­–­ to avoid conflict with the teacher.
This clearly isn’t the way to go about school: not reading key material and only finishing it at home. My knowledge suffered from this habit, and I know it would hit me harder down the road with college and jobs because I simply couldn’t read.
I used to think it was just my special quirk, and it’d become less of a hassle or, even better, go away as I got older. But I was wrong; it got worse. Eventually, my reading issue became so difficult to work with that I just gave up.
When I did read that rare article in class, I never finished it, nor did I ever finish reading the assigned book in World Studies. Instead, I would end up taking it home to read aloud, alone in my bedroom.
However, I did have homework other than just finishing in-class readings. I needed a change of habit from being so furious that I ended up crying.
Changing the habit took two steps: First was catching my attention and the other was making me take action. The first step was to see my PLAN test score. I scored 89 percent better than all Americans at my level in mathematics on the PLAN test, but only scored 27 percent better than all Americans in reading. This was a problem.
I coped with the dilemma for so long, and it wasn’t easy to shrug off. At first, like I do with any bad situation, I refused to confront the issue and forgot about it instead.
The second step toward improvement was when Columbia had snow, and lots of it. Teachers played catch up to maintain a timely schedule for covering all the curriculum before the end of the school year. Every teacher shoved multiple articles at me to read during class.
When I got to my house, I had so many articles and textbooks and notes to read. I was overwhelmed. On the car ride home I told my mom that I hated school. I excel in school and never complain about it, so this was uncharacteristic.
My mom was determined to get the help I needed to boost my score and increase my reading rate. However, the school wouldn’t give me assistance because I got straight A’s last semester.
My grades prove I can be successful without extra assistance. The guidance counselor said that to qualify for the additional help, I would have to be two or more grade levels behind, and according to the STAR test taken at the beginning of the year, I comprehend everything fine, thus not being behind in reading skills.
These past months, I’ve learned that if I need help, I can only help myself. If I can stay afloat in my struggle to read, if I choose to continue the fight not to be illiterate, then I will learn more than how to decode letters. Forcing myself, I now read aloud to myself using tools like a ruler to guide the line of text I’m on, and it feels good. More than anything, though, I’m hoping that one day, I will love to read.