Read part 1 of this two-part post by here


Why do so many of us struggle to read?  Some people struggle to read outside of their few favourite genres, while others struggle to even open up any book and read the first few lines.  When I was younger I had a bad experience at school with books.  This one bad experience affected my life for years afterwards.  I became reluctant, even a little afraid to pick up a book and read it, because I feared I wasn’t a good reader, or I was far too slow and couldn’t keep up with everyone else.

I spent most of my teenage years still believing I wasn’t as good at reading as my peers.  I could read, but I was always slower than all my friends, and for some reason I just couldn’t bring myself to start reading books that weren’t very short or had pictures in them.  When exam time came, I felt strange that I had managed to pass my GCSE English Literature exam with an A grade.  I wondered how I could have done it, I just didn’t believe that I had managed to achieve that grade, considering how terrible I was with all literature.

Realising a mistake

I spent years of my life, wondering what was wrong with me and then when I finally had achieved such a high grade, I believed it was some sort of mistake, as if I could never have achieved something so great.  I spent years, even into adulthood still believing in the same thoughts, that I was terrible at reading books, slower than everyone else, and not good enough to read the books meant for adults.  Even when I reached twenty, my mind still told me that I should stick to my very short (less than 200 pages) YA or younger novels, because I would never be able to read something meant for adults, I just wasn’t good enough.  Ironically, at this time I could read long articles online, but still felt a blockage when it came to long books.  I kept up this flawed thinking for years, believing in the power of my own thoughts, but then I had my own mini breakthrough, and began to question everything I had known.

It’s no secret (as I’ve mentioned it before on my blog) that I’ve gone through certain issues in my past to do with mental health.  Over the years I tried various different approaches to changing the thoughts in my mind, to challenge the way I think.   This became especially important during my battle with extreme OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and one person in particular helped me to start questioning my own beliefs, to look back and discover reasons behind things.  I won’t go into details, but along with other things, I started to look back at my reading journey, and began to question where I got the idea that I was bad at reading.

At seven years old I felt stupid for not being able to read a simple book, to even read or pronounce a single word.  But did this really make me a bad reader, or was something else going on at that time?

Was I actually good at reading?

My stumbled attempt at reading happened when I was seven, but just two years earlier I’d had an experience I had forgotten about until I spoke to my Mum and was reminded of it.  Children in the UK began school at the age of five, and at that age, despite the fact I had been born in Britain and was British, at that time…I could barely speak any English!  Shocking to think, I know, but there is a reason behind it.  My family originally came from another country, and while they spoke both two languages easily, the only one I heard at home wasn’t English.  For the four years up to school, I could only speak a word or two of English.  I was fluent in the other language (as fluent as a four year old can be) but English just wasn’t a first language for me.  So by the time I had entered school, I just couldn’t understand anything the teacher or anyone else said.  Realising this my family quickly adopted English in the house until I was completely fluent in it.

Only two years later, at the age of seven years old, when I had to read aloud and couldn’t understand how to pronounce one word, I began to think I was a bad reader.  But was I really a terrible reader?  Or could it have been excused because I’d only been speaking English properly for the last two years?

Reframing the negatives

I started to adopt a practice that I still do to this day.  In fact I have sort of re-discovered it in the last year, which is why I’ve felt far more positive in my life.  I took the negative idea that I was bad at reading and reframed it to give it a positive meaning in my own mind.  I changed: I am bad at reading because I couldn’t prounce a word and got embarassed, to I am very good at reading, I was able to read so much after speaking English for just two years! It made me feel so much better and I began to believe that my reading speed was normal and that fear I had, was just a mistake I’d been left to believe in for years.

This reframing technique can be adopted in any aspect of life by anyone, and it helped me change the way I viewed my own problems, failures and flaws.  When I realised that a stumbling block at age seven was caused by something that wasn’t my fault, and that I probably was pretty good at reading considering how fast I was picking up the language, it made me see my whole reading situation in a new light.  I started to wonder what reading speed or interest I would have had when I was a child if I hadn’t had that bad experience.  The truth is that I probably would have been a bookworm at a young age and my reading speed may have even been faster.  It didn’t matter about my reading speed though, but what these new reframed thoughts did do was they made me to want to challenge myself, to prove my old beliefs wrong.

Challenging beliefs

What often holds us back in life is what we believe in.  Beliefs are a powerful thing and can have a drastic impact on our lives.  I’m not speaking of religious beliefs though, those are personal and different, what I’m taklking about are the beliefs we have about ourselves, about our own abilities, and our perceived limits.  It’s difficult to change what we believe about ourselves, we have an image in our own minds of what we are like, and how much we can do or what we can achieve, and it can be very difficult to change what we think about the world and ourselves.  But beliefs are only a set of recycled thoughts that we do have the ability to change.  And when we challenge our own beliefs about something, particularly somethining negative we believe about ourselves, we are often able to see that they were wrong, that they were just a flawed way of thinking.

In this way I changed my own beliefs of reading.  I challenged myself to commiting to and reading books.  At first I began slowly, reading more articles in newspapers or online, and then commiting to reading at least a couple of pages in a book every day.  I used to read for a few minutes at the start of my day and then do no other reading after that.  But as the days went on and I progressed through the story I found myself more and more keen to read.  I started reading more often than just in the morning, reading whenever I had a few minutes break and was bored.  And I started to read more than just a couple of pages, instead I’d try to read four or five or six, etc.  Eventually I decided to read a chapter before stopping, or two if I could manage it.  This momentum to read continued with more and more books, and eventually I started to challenge myself to reading different genres, and longer and longer books.

In the beginning I gave myself an incentive, the same way dogs or children often are.  Whenever I managed to finish a book, I rewarded myself.  At first it was with something small, like buying myself some special chocolate, or watching a DVD I owned but hadn’t watched yet (I used buy DVDs in bulk at sales!).  But after reading a few books the satisfaction of finishing became reward enough for me, and my own brain seemed to rewire itself to a new way of thinking.  I no longer saw myself as a struggling reader.  I was someone who loved books, someone who was keen to read.  In fact I knew deep down I was a bookworm and proud of it!

I still do get the odd twinge of fear or nervousness about reading every now and again, for example I often feel apprehension when presented with a huge book of 500+pages (or tome).  But rather than find something else to do that’s more interesting, or putting it off, I now look forward to the satisfaction of having gotten through such a big book, and can’t wait for that feeling of reward I get when I read a good book 🙂

Can You Change Your Beliefs?

Changing your own belifs about yourself can be very difficult, but it’s something that everyone can do, especially if you have limiting beliefs about yourself.  It doesn’t matter what has happened to you in your past.  the past is just a memory and no matter how much we sometimes wish we could change it, the past is in the past.  We cannot change it, but we can change what we think of it, how we react to it and our own beliefs on what we are like.

If there are things in your life, beliefs you have about yourself, limiting beliefs about your own abilities, challenge them by first thinking about what gave you those beliefs.  Did you have some experience when you were younger?  Did it shape your thinking today?  If so, then go back to that memory and see it from the point of view of someone else and question why you feel or think a certain way.  Is there any chance that you are being too hard on yourself, is there a chance you could be wrong about what you think or thought of yourself?

The technique of reframing negative thoughts which I mentioned earlier, can be done by anyone on any subject.  It’s definitely worth trying especially if you are struggling with some negative beliefs about yourself.  You are more wonderful than you probably know and believe, you just need to see it from a new perspective. ❤ 🙂

A Reading Challenge?

Thinking about this has given me thoughts about reading challenges.  Apart from the Goodreads challenge where I set a target amount of books to read, I’ve never taken part in any form of reading challenge.  Do you challenge yourself to read?  Are your kids reluctant readers.  Are they ever challenged to read books?  Would you want to take part in an easy going challenge where you get encourangement from others to try reading if you are reluctant, or encouragement from others to try reading something different to you, like a new genre, if you’re usually reluctant to try it.  I have an idea forming in my head (not much but it’s something)…It could end up disasterous, but it also could be fun.  I’ve never done any form of reading challenge and wondered what your thoughts on them are.  Do you know any reluctant readers who’d want to challenge themselves to try a new book, or if you’re a bookworm, what challenges do you like to do?  Please let me know in the comments.  And most importantly, whatever your beliefs, views and opinions on reading, have a lovely day everyone and don’t fear reading! ❤ 🙂

What do you think?  Have you ever faced any difficulties reading?  Have you ever overcome some out dated beliefs or challenged yourself to do something you were afraid of?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂