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
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
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
Oh, and Emmanuel, if you ever read
this, be sure to contact me. I have been trying to contact you for years...
© S.Round 2010