Second-Grade Terrors

By Jonathan Mooney

Social entrepreneur, author, and LD activist Jonathan Mooney graduated with honors from Brown University, was a Harry S. Truman Scholar for Public Service and a Rhodes Scholar finalist. Yet at age 12 he still couldn’t read. Below he shares his memories of being that kid—an experience many who struggle with learning challenges will relate to.

 An experience that haunts a lot of second graders—especially those with dyslexia—is something called “reading out loud.” Let me tell you how I remember it.

There I am in the reading circle. The first kid starts to read, and I start to flip ahead looking for my paragraph. If I can pre-read it, I’ll be okay. But that’s considered being “off task” or cheating, so my teacher yells at me to stop.

The next kid starts to read and my hands start to sweat, my face fills with fire, my words are broken up, and I’m choking.

 As the kid next to me starts to read, I raise my hand. Where am I going? To the bathroom! I am so terrified that I get up and march intro the bathroom in tears. I cry. I throw up. Occasionally I even pass out. Sometimes I also think about suicide.

I’m hiding in the bathroom, praying that I get passed up, but when I march back into class, what do I discover? It’s my turn!

So I stand in front of all my friends, publicly humiliating myself. I stumble, I mumble, I choke, I suffocate over every word, every sentence for a 20-minute eternity. And we wonder why we’re picked on in the playground!

No child should ever have to go through that, yet it’s happening across America this minute. Let your kids know how wrong that is. Make them understand that it is not the fault of their disability—that it is the fault of the environment they’re forced to operate in.

To learn more about Mooney’s proposals to improve school settings for children with LD and ADHD, see his inspiring TEDTalk, The Learning Revolution—From Schooling to Learning.

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