Rising above Dyslexia: One 13 year old girl’s story

Maya Melesi is a thirteen year old girl living in Nairobi, Kenya. At one stage she was part of my after school creative writing club, Magic Pencil, and I was struck by her boundless enthusiasm, creativity and facility with words. Maya is dyslexic, and while this was never a problem with her creative writing, I invited her onto the blog (my youngest guest blogger to date!) because I wanted to encourage others who have dyslexic children or who are dyslexic themselves that this in no way impedes one’s ability to construct and write inspiring stories and poems. Arguably, dyslexia could even help enhance a writer’s power of observation and sensitivity to their surroundings.

According to Fernette Eide, who teaches creative writing to dyslexic students, ‘the ability of dyslexic writers to see events from different perspectives, to vividly recall personal or sensory details, abilities to imagine, and tell stories with feeling, humour, and voice, are all ingredients that can be seen among the best.’

Indeed, a lengthy list exists of highly successful writers and poets with dyslexia, examples from the past being Agatha Christie, F.Scott Fitzgerald,  Jules Verne and WB Yeats.

So without further ado, here is Maya herself, talking about life, reading and how she has navigated her dyslexia over the years.

When I was younger, I remember having a hard time with my ‘b’s and ‘d’s, I would always mix them up, no matter how many times I practised. At the age of eight I was told I had dyslexia, but with time and hard work and with the help from my parents and teachers, I have found ways to deal with it. I was a bit slower at reading, but I didn’t struggle with that as much as with spelling.

I don’t really have a favourite book (I have enjoyed almost every book I have read!!), but a few that I have loved are The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Running Wild, Private Peaceful and The Wreck of the Zanzibar by Michael Morpurgo, probably my favourite author. There are also so many more!

My creative inspirations mostly come from my own experiences, but sometimes I like to write about something that I have never experienced because I usually do research on the topic I am going to write about, which is really interesting. I remember once, during my pre-mock exam, there was a lawn mower being used outside, and I was really angry because I thought it was distracting me from coming up with an idea for a story, but then the noise of the lawn mower reminded me of something that became the skeleton of my story!

Through my years of being dyslexic, I have found that swimming has helped me. I would train after school and as I was doing lengths, I would repeat what I had learnt that day in the rhythm of my stroke. I have also noticed that swimming has helped my concentration and determination. It is the same with running.

I have what I call my ‘night ideas’ which are are notes that I have written down when I think of something in the middle of the night. Sometimes it is a dream that I could use for a story. Or sometimes it is just something that I think of as I am drifting off to sleep.

This sentence is something that has come out of my ‘night ideas’, and I have also used alliteration:

her perfect profile propped up on the pillow, her head resting in her hand.’

In the next piece, I used research that I had done about World War 2 when Germans were taking the Jews out of their homes to a concentration camp, and the character in this short piece is hiding as the Germans take her family away. I have also used alliteration in this one:

darkness surrounded her, hugging her, keeping her safe as she crouched under the bed. Light leaked in through the crack in the curtain.’

I don’t feel like having dyslexia has limited me in any way. To me it has just been normal. I love being creative and being in nature, so when I am learning something, often I walk around the garden or jump on the trampoline, while repeating whatever it is I need to learn.

Some of my favourite things to do are playing with my dogs, sports, travelling, learning about the environment, being with my friends, swimming, and I love reading books!

By Maya Melesi. Age 13.

A big thank you to Maya for coming on the blog 🙂 She’s far too modest to mention this, but at the end of the previous school year she obtained the highest mark in her year group for her English common entrance exam. Congratulations Maya and good luck with all your future creative endeavours!

If you enjoyed this blog post, complement it with my interview with Trusha Ganesh, a young Indian writer; the nine year old who read one hundred books in a year and why reading aloud to kids, even older ones, is so important.

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