Though she is just 9 years old, Lillian Harris is about to become a published author. While coming out with a book before leaving elementary school is an accomplishment, Lillian's book is even more exceptional because writing is one of her biggest challenges.
Lillian, a third-grader at Niedringhaus Elementary, has dyslexia, a reading disability that makes it hard for her to spell words correctly and put together sentences. When Lillian sits down to write or read, "some of the words end up all over the place, some go up in the corner," she said, pointing to a page in her book "Dogs for Dyslexia."
Lillian penned the story for the Madison County Young Authors Conference, a county-wide writing competition. She and 43 other students from Granite City School District were chosen to represent their schools at the conference next month. But her story is going to get exposure beyond the county.
"Dogs for Dyslexia" should be available by summer at books stores and places like the Children's Dyslexia Center in Belleville. Working with Corley Printing, a publication printing company in Earth City, Mo., Lillian's family is self-publishing the story to support children with dyslexia and teach others about the disability.
"I think she was extremely brave for putting her struggles on paper to share with others, because most kids don't want to talk about it," said Nicole Harris, Lillian's mother.
"Dogs for Dyslexia" tells the tale of Alesea, a young girl with dyslexia, and how her dog Daisy helps her get through the school day. Daisy helps Alesea navigate through hallways with lots of words and numbers, tells her the difference between the letters "b and "d." The dog reads to Alesea when words start jumping around the page and comforts Alesea when the day gets overwhelming.
"It talks about things that are hard for people if they have it," Lillian said.
The book is not Lillian's first whack at being an author. Last year, her Young Authors' submission "The Lost Ladybug" took her all the way to the state-level conference. While Lillian has no trouble supplying a story, getting those words onto a page is when things get difficult.
"Whenever she writes, she is full of so much creativity," her mother said. "Her brain is working so hard that while she's thinking about it and trying to transfer that on to paper, we get all messed up."
Lillian and her mom have learned to use technology and accommodations to make the writing process smoother. Lillian can speak her story into a application on her iPad that transcribes the words. She often tells her story out loud for Nicole to write down. Lillian also goes to tutoring at the Children's Dyslexia Center twice a week. Though reading and writing can be hard, they are her favorite subjects because "I want to get better," Lillian said.
"She's great, some days she could teach the class," said Lillian's teacher Mary Voss. "She's come a very long way and she's made great accomplishments in reading."
"So many people have the misconception that it is strictly 'b' and 'd' reversals. It's extremely complex and it varies," said Lillian's mom. "It's become something that, as her parent you really want her to take ownership of and know that it's OK to talk about. ... My biggest goal for her is to take ownership and become her own advocate."