When I was little my mother suspected I had a learning disability when it came to the english language.
Which makes it ironic that I have just published my first book, From Ant To Eagle.
Why was my mother worried? Not to mention every teacher I ever had…
Because I was (and still am) an atrocious speller.
Here’s a sample of my journal when I was 8 years old.
What is written: “Tues Dec 3rd. my neus. ie lick hockee bckus it is fun to plaee.
Translation: “Tues Dec 3rd. My news. I like hockey because it is fun to play.”
Yep, I spelled almost every single word wrong… including the word “I” (which is impressively bad).
As you can see, it was basically unintelligible. Which was a source of a lot of stress for me and my mother. I remember trying to spell the same word multiple different ways during school assignments in hopes that teachers might think, “Oh, he knows how to spell this word, look over here… he got it right over here… this other one must have been an accident.”
The tactic didn’t work.
I basically failed every spelling test I ever took. For one year of my elementary schooling I attended a school that had spelling tests where the teacher would stand at the front of class and read a paragraph. We would transcribe this onto our paper for marking and if you spelled a word wrong, you got a mark off. I consistently got less than zero. NEGATIVE SCORES! This raised two red flags – 1. My spelling. 2. The testing method. What kind of school has tests where you can get less than zero!?!? I was quickly transferred back to Montessori where they were much more accommodating but the damage was done. My confidence with spelling and writing was shot.
My mother tried to overcome this using the most tried and true method to improve spelling: READING!
The problem was… my brother and I refused to read. We’d rather play sports or watch movies. That is until we discovered Goosebumps books (thank you R.L. Stine – you saved my life). Suddenly I was spending hours a day reading. My brother and I read even when we could have been playing video games (shocking!).
Slowly my spelling improved. At least enough to pass and feel slightly more confident. I continued to read and somewhere in medical school I decided to try my hand at writing. I wrote From Ant To Eagle over the course of seven years and it was published this April.
I still can’t spell. Even simple words. I think a certain part of my brain is missing. But now I’m a doctor and can scribble when I don’t know how to spell a word. The perfect job. Good old “Doctor Hand Writing”.
So I leave everyone with a few words of advice:
PARENTS: If your child is struggling with spelling, get them reading. It doesn’t matter if it’s comics, Goosebumps or the phone book – reading is reading.
TEACHERS: Don’t have exams where students can get less than zero.
CHILDREN: If you can’t spell – READ! And if that doesn’t work – BECOME A DOCTOR!
Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment below.