Being a Late Learner | Her Campus

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

I always hear stories of “gifted children” who were ahead of the rest of their classmates. They were greatly celebrated by their teachers but experienced burnout later in their lives because of it. After always being on top, they fell hard at a very young age. Every time I hear a parent exclaim something along the lines of “My six-year-old reads at the level of a ten-year-old,” I cringe. I know how far those children can fall when they get into high school and suddenly, they aren’t so unbelievably intelligent anymore. I know because I was on the other side of the spectrum. I am a fourth-year English Major working towards a minor in creative writing, and I could not read or write until I was ten years old.

My teachers used to take me out of art class, free time, and recess so I could sit in a dimly lit room and learn the alphabet and simple word composition. I attended a full French school even though my parents could not speak the language. While I could speak and understand both French and English wonderfully, I could neither read nor write in either.

I was tested for a multitude of learning disabilities: I am not dyslexic (although my father is), I have perfect 20/20 vision, and I was as intelligible and elegant as any other ten-year-old when I spoke. My English and French spoken grammar were exactly where they were expected to be, I was very bright and exceptionally creative. I always told stories to my parents when they had time to listen. I just could not understand how to put it all on paper.

While the French Catholic school system is inarguably problematic, I was fortunate to have gone through it. Our class sizes were very small and my teachers had the time and energy to sit down with me one-on-one and spend time teaching me how to read. It was evident to them that I had some type of learning disability that remains undiscovered.

In my elementary school, we had a reading system called “Les Bac D’arc-en-Ciel” There were seven levels that one needed to graduate to be able to call themselves a successful reader. From junior kindergarten to the third grade, each student was expected to graduate from the red bucket which included small picture books with very few words in them, to the final level “Arc-en-Ciel,” which were small novels with very few pictures in them.

I never tested out of “Les Bac D’arc-en-ciel.”

By the time I could read at the “Arc-en-Ciel” level, we were all in grade four and we were expected to be able to read novels such as “Anne of Green Gables” and “Le Petit Prince,” I was still reading those small picture books.

For whatever reason, my mother was not worried about me. I put in twice the amount of work that the gifted children did, only to end up getting lower grades in school. By the time I made it to high school I was one of very few with a good work ethic because I had been actively learning to work and study since I was nine years old.

In grade nine, I was reading French and English at the same level as the rest of my classmates. By grade twelve, I had pulled so far ahead that my English teacher was helping me apply for scholarships. I was one of five students in my graduating class who got accepted into a university outside of our hometown.

This year, I will be graduating from the University of Ottawa with a Major in English Literature and a Minor in Creative Writing. I love reading because when I was young, I had teachers who made sure to spend extra time with me to ensure that reading was fun.

I still work twice as hard as a lot of my friends who effortlessly receive merit scholarships, but at the end of the day, we’re both in the same place studying the same thing.



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