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Readers Reflect: For the Love of Stories

March 22, 2010

“Readers Reflect,” is a weekly post by a guest blogger reflecting on a formative book, character, or reading experience that has been particularly meaningful in their life as a reader. To submit your own “Readers Reflect” essay, please contact us at courtskids@gmail.com

Lately I’ve been thinking about the miraculous nature of our brains: How diverse we are in our approaches to thinking, the vastly different perspectives we contribute to seemingly simple ideas, the undeniable beauty that comes from different minds collaborating to create a prismatic understanding of our world.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw this video by Temple Grandin (you may have seen her portrayed in the HBO movie that bears the same name).  Temple is autistic and has become an outspoken advocate for understanding and interacting with people who are on the spectrum.  Her thoughts are inspiring for everyone – not just those directly touched by autism.  In fact, I’ve come to realize that I am one of those people with a “different mind”.

I do not have autism. On the contrary, I am a Highly Sensitive Person who takes in far more sensory and non-verbal input than the average bear, sometimes to my own detriment.  But I am a visual-spatial learner, a trait associated with gifted individuals that comes with it’s own challenges and drawbacks.

Visual-Spatial learners often struggle with reading and writing.  And yet, I am a writer.  How is it that I can express myself in written language when even learning to read can be such a hurdle for visual-spatial learners?

Which brings me to my point (were you beginning to worry that I didn’t have one?):  I believe motivation and passion is the key to overcoming the challenges that come with any given diagnosis, syndrome, learning style, or – quite frankly – life itself.

In my case, it was stories.  Wonderful, engaging, visual, lose-yourself-in-the-moment stories.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a house filled with books.  We didn’t have much extra change for things like fashionable clothes or cable TV (a fact my junior high traumas can attest to), but for as long as I can remember, stories were an integral part of my life.  There were bedtime stories every night, new books for birthday and Christmas gifts, coloring books with stories that ran through them, story-telling on long car trips, and reading modeled by my parents on a very frequent basis.

There was Richard Scary’ Mistress Mouse with the hole cut out to feel the fuzzy mouse at the end of the book, and Ezra Jack Keats’ A Snowy Day, which painted a vivid picture for a girl who grew up in snow-less Texas. There was The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams and William Nicholson, a story so engaging that for nearly two decades I shuddered at the thought of tossing out an old toy (what if it were real?!).

I remember clearly the day that my mom explained that in order to unlock the stories that were safeguarded within the pages of these magical books, I would have to learn to read.  Reading was the key, quite literally.

This was a pivotal, life-changing moment.  My mother did not know that I was a visual-spatial learner (a fact I only learned about a year ago, in fact). She did not know that there were challenges to overcome, or that reading might not be the easiest task for me.  And yet, by sparking a love of stories – not just the act of reading – she gave me the precise tool I would need to become the storyteller I was meant to be.

That motivation sustained me through all of the tough moments that came with learning to read (many of which I left unvoiced in my drive to simply figure it out).  It carried me through the moments in my young adult life when I thought perhaps writing wasn’t the career for me.  It unlocked the movies playing in my head and gave me the power to trap voice on paper and share it with others.

It was a miraculous gift, and one that every child deserves. Discovering the prime motivator, the passion within, is the only way to truly tap a child’s full potential.  Whether it’s math or song, paint or science, unearthing that desire should be the true goal of every parent, mentor, teacher, and counselor who has the good fortune to impact a child’s life.

Julia Kennedy Jayes
Writer & Marketing Consultant

Julia’s & Kiki’s mothers are long time friends from childhood, now Kiki & Julia have been given the opportunity to work together through Court’s Kids and We Are Teachers.

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