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Ten years ago I had a little boy named Emmanuel in 2nd grade who absolutely could not read the simplest text - no matter how much he tried. Everyone who had attempted  to help him through the years  - his family, his kindergarten teacher, his first grade teacher, school psychologist, reading specialists and special ed. teachers, all had all eventually given up in frustration - AND SO HAD HE! His behavior was terrible, his grades were awful, he refused to pay attention and often simply went to sleep in class.

 

This poor guy knew that he was smart but could not figure out what he was doing wrong. He had become so frustrated that one day he actually hit me right in the middle of class (the only child in ten years to do so) and was dragged out of the room by the "behavior specialists". But I could not give up on him.

 

Then one day I was observing Emmanuel and another boy "partner reading" on the rug. The other boy would read a page AND EMMANUEL WAS HELPING HIM FIGURE OUT THE WORDS WHEN HE GOT STUCK! How was that possible? I quietly walked over and watched what was going on.

 

The other boy was holding the book and Emmanuel was LOOKING OVER THE TOP ! To him, everything was upside down and backwards - but he could make perfect sense of it! I called him up to my desk and asked him if it was easier for him to read upside down and he said "Yes." I was shocked. I immediately took out a simple first grade text (one that Emmanuel had never been able to read before) and he proceeded to read it perfectly - COMPLETELY UPSIDE DOWN! I gave him a harder book and the same thing happened.

 

I grabbed his hand and his books and we went straight down to the principal. Up until that day, the only time she had ever seen Emmanuel was because of discipline problems. Today both he and I were smiling. I said, "Mrs. Owen, I want you to meet the absolutely best upside down reader I have ever seen!" And he walked over next to her and read his books, fluently and with feeling, completely upside down. We praised him. She hugged him. We called his mom with the good news. 

 

I wrote a "good note" home that afternoon and said to just encourage him to continue doing exactly what he was doing. Emmanuel  went on through the semester reading that way. He even went into other teacher's classrooms to demonstrate his talent to their classes. His self respect  and confidence sky- rocketed. By the end of the year he was "On Level" with his peers.

 

His mom came in to thank me for turning Emmanuel around, and she continued to call me for a few years after that to tell me how well he was doing in his new school. The remarkable thing was, she said, that "Emmanuel taught himself how to read right-side-up, all on his own!"

 

During the months that I worked with Emmanuel I did my best to find information on the internet and at the local libraries on "Upside Down Reading" , but could find absolutely nothing. Some people said that they had heard of it, and that they thought it was some rare form of dyslexia, but no studies had ever been done.

 

Well, I figured that Emmanuel was "one-in-a-million" and life went on. I lost touch with Emmanuel and his mom, but continued to teach both first and second grades. And I had never thought that much about upside down reading until the spring of 2009. At that time I had two very bright little boys who were turning out to be just like Emmanuel. Six months went by with no progress with either one. Then one day it hit me - Upside Down Readers !!

 

I called them up one at a time and had them try it. Success!! Both boys did significantly better upside down than they had ever done "the normal way". And from that day I have made it a point to find out everything I can about this phenomena and how it can help struggling readers.

 

Oh, and Emmanuel, if you ever read this, be sure to contact me. I have been trying to contact you for years...

 

Mr. Round

 

 © S.Round 2010


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