I recently attended an event and sat next to another writer who shyly admitted that he wasn’t a strong reader as a kid. I whacked the side of his arm and said, “No way! Me too.”
Growing up, I’d always heard that to be a good writer you have to be a good reader, so I crossed “author” off my ambition list in the second grade. I was a remedial reader all through elementary school and, year after year, found myself in Mrs. Pasada’s remedial reading class. There were never more than a couple of us in her room at a time, which made it feel a like a secret. We wanted to keep it that way. I struggled tracking words on the page and understanding what I was reading while I was reading it. Mrs. Pasada put me on a strict diet of SRA books, and I worked through them hoping I would one day reach the end. But the thing about SRA books is that they never really seem to end; they just keep going in an endless rainbow of color-coded levels.
By the end of fifth grade, I didn’t have to report to Mrs. Pasada anymore, but for a long time after that I associated reading with being a chore. I enjoy reading now but sometimes get flashes of imposter syndrome when people reminisce about their childhoods absorbed in the pages of a book. That’s why it was nice to meet a fellow writer with a similar story–a sense of community can take surprising forms.