Kiayana’s Story of Learning How to Read

By Kiayana (Kiki) Bond

Tuesday afternoons, after my university classes, I am an instructor for CanLearn’s Reading Pilots program. When we started working together in September, my student was really struggling with reading and she hated it. Over the last few weeks, I have been amazed at the progress she has made. I nearly burst with pride the day she told me that she now likes reading and now she reads ahead in her assignments because she doesn’t want to stop reading! Her progress is particularly significant to me because I have such clear memories of struggling to read, just like my student.


First Failure

My earliest memory from school was doing a multiplication test. We had ten minutes to answer five questions. The anxiety and panic I felt when everyone else flipped their papers over before me made me sick to my stomach. I cried after that test. My classmates said that the test was easy. That was when I first started noticing I was different, but at least the other students did not know that I did not complete the test. I was the only one who knew I struggled.

But when we started reading aloud, my inabilities were showcased to the whole class. Reading aloud destroyed me as a young student. The anxiety came back every time we had to read aloud. I stumbled through every word, missed all the punctuation, and the worst part was that I never truly understood what I was reading. I remember it felt as if everyone knew I could not read. I concluded that I was just simply bad at reading and math but I also struggled with science and social studies. I never understood what we were doing or what we were learning. I came to the conclusion that I was dumb. I cannot remember when I shrank into myself or how long it lasted. I stopped connecting with other students and with learning. The only person who noticed the change was my mom. Although teachers told my parents I was struggling, no one directed my parents to where I could get help; many insisted that I was just not trying hard enough.

Luckily, my mother knew I was not dumb or lazy and she fought to get me tested, as she knew how hard I tried but never could improve. Testing showed that I have many learning disabilities, such as delay in processing, memory issues, comprehension issues, and performing poorly in math and reading. My teachers were informed that I had these learning disabilities, but many did not or could not provide me with the support I needed. A few did their best to push me to the finish line and they were the people who ensured I kept trying.


My Aunty

My Aunty insisted that I read every day with her and with her support everything started to change. We read a chapter a day. No matter how much I struggled, my Aunty and I read. At the time it was hard work, but it’s a fond memory for me now. I do not know how long I went to her house every day after school or how she taught me, but I remember the day I fell in love with reading; it was not the first book I finished reading but the first book I enjoyed reading. It was a small collection of stories that told the tale of the Deathly Hallows from Harry Potter. I remember I was not able to put it down. I finished the book in record time, and the best part was when I could tell my parents what happened in the book. It was the first time I enjoyed reading and could tell people what happened in a book. That’s when I could not stop reading; I spent my lunch break and recess reading. I would finish soccer practice and read. I would read while eating and read before sleeping. Now I am watching my student experience the same thing. I am doubly thrilled to see the world of reading open for her and to know that the work I am doing with her is like the work my Aunty did with me.

Learning to read made school enjoyable for me. Although finally, I could read ahead of my level, I still struggled with comprehension, science, and math. I worked hard to meet the requirements and instead of being a below-average student, I became an average student, and I was ecstatic to see the improvement. I studied every day, asked for help, did tutoring, focused with my teacher’s aide, triple-checked my work, and never fooled around in the classroom. I understood at a young age that to succeed in my education, I would have to work hard. Still, I spent my high school years working hard to maintain decent grades and I still believed that I was dumb. It was not until university that I realized that I am not dumb.


University For Me?

In 2018 I got into the history program at Mount Royal University. I fell in love with this program and met the most amazing professors who worked so hard to accommodate my learning disabilities. Now I’m in the teacher education program and my grades are the highest they have ever been. I fell in love with learning in university, from the atmosphere, the choice of what I learned, and how deeply I wanted to understand this knowledge. It felt like a whole new world was opening up for me. This is when I realized that I wanted to teach. I want to help students like me who are struggling to find their confidence in their learning.

Many people take having education for granted. But for those of us with learning disabilities, it requires alternate ways of learning. Once those are in place we have the power to do what we want in life. Although I still love history and will complete that degree one day, I realized that teaching was something I knew I would love and learn to do well. But to get into the education program meant I had to take an English course to achieve a higher grade and ensure that all my grades were strong. It took long days and nights, lots of coffee, little sleep, and a lot of support. My first year in Education made me realize how much I want to be a teacher. My first teaching job with Reading Pilots has proved to me how much I love teaching.

Two extraordinary women are behind my successful university career. First, my mother who fought for me every time a teacher doubted me and fought for me to get the help I needed; she is one of the reasons that I am confident that I have a good brain. Then my Aunty took on the job of teacher without being asked. With no background in educating she did everything she could to ensure my success. I owe these women so much; they forced me to dream bigger; they loved and nurtured me when I struggled. Without them, I would have given up on myself. The two of them have been my top supporters. I love them both so much, and I am so grateful for what they have done and continue to do for me.


Not Alone

I am thankful for all the teachers who told me to keep trying, and I am grateful for the professors who allow me to ask millions of questions and provide the accommodations I need for success. I am thankful for Reading Pilots for giving me the chance to realize my dream more fully. And I am especially thankful that my student is learning to love reading because I know that reading is a key to her future success. I did not get here alone; and now she won’t have to get where she is going alone either.

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