I was demoted to Group B reading group in fifth grade.
This reduction in rank was a tragic event for me. I always had been an honors student. In first grade, I was in an honors math program. I could leave the regular math class to attend a special counting class. I was in the program with other smart kids.
Even though teachers said the classes were not grouped according to ability, we all knew they were. The smart kids always were in Group A. All of my reading, math and spelling groups were Group A.
Until fifth grade. Until that demotion to Group B.
I was disappointed in myself. Little did I know, I had a reading comprehension challenge. My teachers and parents saw it, but I refused to acknowledge it. All I saw was a demotion and disappointment.
In sixth grade, I remember trying to read through one story; however, I was confused during class. The story was about a horse named Colonel. It wasn’t a bad story, but the teacher talked about a character named “Kernel” during class discussions. I spent more time trying to find the right story than understanding the content. Years later, I realized I was mispronouncing the horse’s name. To me, the horse’s name was “Co-lo-nal,” not Kernel.
I rarely read an assigned story or book in junior high and high school. I bribed my friends to read books for me and give me an overview of the book, so I could pass the assignments. I did not enjoy fiction stories and had no desire to get better at my comprehension challenge until I was 27 years old.
I stopped in an airport bookstore while traveling to Denver. A witty book title caught my eye. I did not consider myself a reader, but I took a chance and bought the book anyway. One week later, I returned home with a fully read copy of “Thinking for a Change,” by John C. Maxwell. During this trip, I learned that I was not reading the right books throughout my young years. I do not enjoy fiction books, but I embraced this personal development book.
For the past 20 years, I have consumed numerous development books by various authors. These books take longer to read as I like to work through the thought-provoking ideas. On average, I complete 12 books per year.
I have found that I do enjoy a few fiction books, particularly by local author Heather Gudenkauf, so I permit myself to get lost in a novel once per year.
This year, I indulged early in her new book, “The Overnight Guest.” Then, after hearing from my daughter and many clients about how good “Where the Crawdads Sing,” by Delia Owens, was, I allowed myself to read another fiction book. I was shocked at how I struggled to read this second book. The writing was more creative, and there was poetry in the book. (I do not enjoy poetry.)
This type of writing slows me down and makes me look up definitions for words I do not often see. But the story was good. After a few chapters, I got into a new groove of reading. I picked up speed while reading and even enjoyed the short poems.
In the past few months — thanks to my friend, Sheri — I have visited the local library and got a library card to borrow books. I have checked out fiction and memoir books. Next, I want to read an autobiography and maybe even a science fiction book.
I have learned that even though I enjoy personal development books the best, I need to exercise my brain with other reading materials. I always am reading three or four books at a time, so I get my personal development book fix. This new approach to the books I choose already has increased my reading speed and internal dictionary. What has amazed me is that I have completely read eight books this year. I easily could double my yearly intake with this new reading habit.
I’m sure my teachers encouraged me years ago to read a variety of books to keep my skills sharp; however, I wasn’t interested in hearing it from them then. I am ready now.
Thankfully, we are never done learning. Our brain craves new and different things.
How will you grow during this next school year? Melissa Gilbert captured my interest after visiting her home in De Smet, S.D. It’s time for me to return to her new book, “Back to the Prairie.”
Kathie Rotz is an executive leadership coach and speaker with Unity Consulting and the author of “You Have Superpowers” online learning program.