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Back to School and a Dyslexic Child

4/12/2011, 5:27 p.m.

I am looking forward to the day my daughter can read this book on her own.

Back to school felt different for me this year.

My youngest daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia about six months ago.

Her first grade teacher wanted us to be aware that something was not right. It was a painful meeting.

We got her tested and I worried.

I am writer and reading is what changed my life.

When I was growing up in Harlem, my parents wouldn't let me out of the house except to go to school, and the corner bodega, so I sat in my second floor fire escape reading and watching.

My grandmother was a maid for a rich family who lived on Park Avenue. They had a son my age and he gave me the used books he didn't want.

I had a stack of them by my side on the fire escape.

Curious George, Curious George Rides a Bike, Curious George goes to the Laundromat, The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham...and more. I read them over and over again. As the years went by the words got bigger and the books thicker. The books became library books and then books I would buy with my allowance... they got me dreaming...imagining a world outside of the tenements, poverty and crime of my neighborhood.

Books were my doorway out.

Now my little girl struggles to read a sentence, what freed her mommy is the biggest challenge of her young life.

The dyslexia affects her short-term memory and her speech. Words flip in her mind and she gets frustrated.

My little girl had to undergo all kinds of tests. We found a new school for her, a place where she can get the help she needs.

So last week was her first day at her new school. She was nervous, but so very brave. At the door she hugged me and I kissed her forehead and said, "Have a great day." And then she walked alone into her school and her new life as a child who is learning to thrive with a learning disability; one of the estimated 15 to 20 percent of students who has a language based learning disability. Dyslexia doesn't discriminate, boys and girls have it and people from all kinds of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, according to the International Dyslexia Association

As I watched her walk into her new school, I felt my mind lapse into prayer. I was praying that inside they would help her find her path to the magic of books.

But I smiled as I realized this was not the first time I found myself praying on her first day of school. I did the same thing when I left her at preschool for the first time when she was two.

This is all part of the amazing ritual of parenting. It is filled with the unknown.