My parents never told me I was dyslexic until I came home in tears after taking a reading test in 7th grade. I’d learned to my horror that my score was significantly lower than the class average. My face burned with shame as I sank lower and lower in my desk each time someone asked me my score. I couldn’t understand it! English was my best subject. I loved reading far more than the majority of students in my class. But there I was with a test score telling me my reading level was far behind theirs. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. The words beat over and over again in my head like the sound of a drum.
So when my mom came to pick me up from school I let loose an avalanche of tears as I told her what happened. That’s when she told me. “You are dyslexic.” I was never angry at my parents for keeping this from me. In fact I am glad they did. By not treating me like a special case, someone with a disability, I never had any reason to doubt myself. I had no excuses to give up on reading. Sure I wondered why it took me longer to learn how to read than the other kids in first grade, but back then it didn’t bother me so much. I’d always loved books and I was determined to learn. When things finally did click there was no stopping me. I read American Girl Books. I read the Boxcar children. I read Witch of Blackbird Pond, A Wrinkle in Time, and Little Women. By the time my parents told my I had dyslexia I’d already developed a fierce passion for books. Dyslexia could not hurt me in that respect.
It did, however, hurt me when it came to test taking. I managed to pull off mostly A’s in high school, but when I took the ACT for the first time I got a crushingly low score, 18. Again the words stupid, stupid, stupid beat mercilessly into my insecure, adolescent brain. I cried and cried, but months later after studying like crazy I took it again and brought my score up 3 points to a 21.
So yeah. Test taking has always been a problem for me. You can imagine how my heart sank when I realized there was a test I had to pass to get a library page position. An alphabetizing test at that! When I went to take the test at the Urbana Library they put a big stack of papers in front of me full of multiple questions. I was asked to complete it in 25 minutes and only allowed to miss 15 questions to pass. Despite my best efforts I didn’t even make it to the dewey decimal section before I heard those dreaded words, “Times up!”
I had failed. I managed to keep my head up and put on a brave face as I left the library, but as soon as I was out the door hot tears began to flow. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Luckily I have a loving husband who held me in his arms when I got home until the hateful voice inside my head subsided. Later I mustered up enough courage to apply for the library page position at the Champaign Library.
I got an interview and sure enough there was a test. I was given two stacks of cards, one to organize alphabetically and the other to organize in numerical order. I did the best I could, but of course when I handed them over I had a sinking feeling that I had failed again. The interviewers were very kind, but they didn’t tell me whether I passed the test or not. I told myself not to expect anything as I waited for the call. I’ve always been the kind of person that hopes for the best, but expects the worst. So when I got the job offer I was ecstatic.
My first two days working at the library has been a whirlwind of new information. There is so much to learn and a never-ending load of work to do. Sometimes when I fell like I am being particularly slow about shelving books the familiar pounding of Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. rises again, but I’m learning to push it away. I have earned my right to be here, in a library, a place I’ve always dreamed of working in. I am wanted. I am capable. I belong.