Student writing on paper in a library

Sharing the Gift of Literacy

At age 9, Michelle D. set a goal for her future self.

When she was old enough, she vowed, she would drop out of school and leave the frustration and anxiety associated with learning to read behind her.

Fortunately, that didn’t happen. Instead, new dreams are coming true for the 20-year-old New Hampshire resident.

Diagnosed with a speech impediment at age five and dyslexia at age eight, Michelle struggled in elementary school.

“I had this constant fear that I would get picked to read in class or have to go up to the board and write words that I had no clue how to read, never mind write,” she shared. “By fourth grade, I had told myself that I can’t read, and I NEVER will. My logic was, if I could not read in second grade or third grade, how is fourth grade going to be any different?”

But it was. That year, Michelle started homeschooling with her mother and tutors, including educators skilled in the Wilson Reading System® (WRS).

“I began Wilson at Step 1.3 with a negative attitude. What I didn’t realize at the time was that it is okay to be different. All I needed was to be taught in a different way, which is what Wilson did. By the end of that year, my attitude began to shift. As I began to make more progress, I realized that I can learn. I finally understood why we spell the way we do and that there are rules in the English language. It gave me a passion to want to learn more,” she said.

“As the years went by, I broke my promise of never wanting to go to college. Instead, I made a new one: anything that gets in my way I can overcome, no matter how big.”

Michelle is now following an academic path leading to a career as a teacher or speech pathologist. At age 17, she enrolled in the Early College Program at Nashua Community College. The Honors Scholar and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society member graduates this month with an Associate degree in Educator Preparation and a School Aged Para Educator II academic certificate.

This fall, she will transfer to Gordon College  in Massachusetts to pursue a bachelor’s degree in linguistics and/or education, while also working as a paraprofessional. After that, she plans to earn a master’s degree in speech language pathology and become WRS certified to further her knowledge and help students achieve their own goals.

“I am really excited about going to Gordon, especially considering that they support Wilson ideology in their teaching. In my wildest dreams, I never thought that I would study linguistics, the very thing that was the hardest growing up! I feel very blessed having the opportunities and support in my life to be able to learn. Now I hope to keep on giving the gift that I received,” she said.

Michelle, who also stays busy training service dogs for the visually impaired, said gaining the gift of literacy altered her life and outlook.

“I learned first-hand how valuable the Wilson Reading System is for students who struggle to read, as I did. I had a great experience with the program, and I want to give others the same opportunity to learn. It wasn’t until I was 13 that I saw my dyslexia as a gift and not a curse. Because of it, I have learned determination, patience, and study skills. Dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence. It means you just learn differently than others and you have other special gifts. You just need to discover them.”

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