Librarians: My Superheroes

Writing on the Road and There’s No Pen

I Was Illiterate

  • April 22, 2018
  • Blog


“Your child will never learn to read.”

That’s what my first-grade teacher told my mother on open school night. With one sentence, she consigned me to a lifetime of illiteracy.

Fortunately, my mother didn’t take that lying down. She went home and told my father and brothers, and then my brothers coached me with flash cards. And I learned.

We didn’t know I was hearing impaired. But one-on-one coaching unlocked the puzzle of letters and words, and I moved forward. Then, while in second grade, I saw a book on a living room chair. I looked at the cover and was captivated. (Yes, covers matter!) But when I opened it, I discovered that a second-grade vocabulary wasn’t good enough to read The Hobbit. It became my goal to read that book, and by third grade I had succeeded.

Then, one of my brothers handed me three paperbacks, all with similar artwork.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“The sequel to The Hobbit,” he replied.

I tried to read all three in one night and somewhere in the late hours realized that if I couldn’t tell the difference between Sauron and Saruman, it was time to go to sleep.

Books open worlds. They open universes. They hide messages and teach lessons and sometimes are utter trash. And I love them.

But underlying all this is the thought that it might have passed me by because of one teacher.

I’ve had other, better teachers. Teachers I worshipped, teachers who helped me stay on the path of learning. To them, I say thank you. And to my family, a most heartfelt thank you. If I’m a writer today, it’s because you helped me yesterday.


  • Ken • April 23, 2018 at 7:19 am

    Beautiful story! Thank you for sharing.

    • J. M. Levinton • April 23, 2018 at 9:58 pm


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