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Dr. Zhivago is a tome many readers would find daunting, but even more so for a young reader with dyslexia. This continuation of my best books guest post series comes from Susan P. Cooper who blogs about wine, food, art, and life’s lessons on her blog Finding Our Way Now. She certainly has a knack for extracting insights from daily life that all readers can relate to. Susan’s tireless support and encouragement makes me proud to call her my friend.

Finding Our Way Now

Dr. Zhivago: To Love A Good Book

I am a storyteller. So when Jeri asked that I write a guest post related to books or literature this is what came to mind. My story begins when my father made a decision to move me to the high school where he taught upper-level math. He felt I would be given a better chance to excel without prejudiced by doing so. It was a large school, and I kind of got lost in its size. Being a bit shy and quiet didn’t help matters. I liked my teachers well enough, and all seemed to be going as my father had hoped. Except for my English class.


I have always struggled with reading and writing. That comes from being dyslexic. Which meant that as a young person in school, I became a very good auditory learner. That worked remarkably well and was a good thing until it came to my English classes. I was good in math and science, but English literature and writing were my bane.


Everyone loved my English teacher, Martha Hilgrass. She was pretty, funny, and would tell us some terrific stories about different books and their authors that we were to read. It was the reading part that I had the most difficult time with. A short time went by. One day Ms. Hilgrass asked if I would stop by to see her at the end of the day. I worried the rest of that day. What did she want? Was she going to tell me how bad I was doing? I was genuinely trying hard to keep up, couldn’t she see that? The worst thought of all was, does my dad know?


At the end of the school day, I reluctantly went to Ms. Hilgrass’s classroom. She said she knew I had to stay after school to wait for my dad. She thought it would be fun if we spent some time together just talking and maybe I could even help her with a few things. I was so surprised and much relieved. She wanted to spend time with me, of all people. I had a blast. Ms. Hilgrass was so much fun. I learned about her life, boyfriends, what she liked to do and all the fantastic places she had visited. I couldn’t wait till the end of each day to spend time with her.


One afternoon, she mentioned that she had an idea. She asked me not to judge what she had in mind. I was a bit puzzled by that, but I trusted her, so I asked what it was. She handed me book, a particularly large book. I stared at it and wondered what I was to do with it. I looked up at her with a questioning look. She laughed. She said, “I know what you’re thinking. Wow, how can I ever read something like that!” She went on to say how she had a fun idea. “I want you to read just one chapter a night, no more, and let’s talk about it the next day. Are you game?” I shrugged and reluctantly said yes. She laughed and said, “Aw, it’ll be fun, I promise.”


Doctor Zhivago


That night, after putting off reading my chapter, I finally picked up the extremely large book and read the preface. It was so boring. It took me a while, but I did it.


The next afternoon, she asked me about it, and we talked about what I had read and learned. She smiled and told me that I had done well. That felt remarkably good. This went on for a while. We talked about the book chapter by chapter. But then something started to happen. The whole story started to get truly entertaining, and I couldn’t help not reading more than one chapter a night.


I couldn’t wait to talk to Ms. Hilgrass about what I’d read. She was super-excited about that. I babbled on about what might happen next. When I finished the book, I experience something I had never felt before, a sense of loss like losing a friend. I wanted more. When I express how I felt to Ms. Hilgrass, she told me she wasn’t surprised.


What I learned from Ms. Hilgrass was it wasn’t how long it took for me to read the book but what I gained from the experience that mattered. She went on to explain that good literature would always give me that feeling and cause me to reach for more. And that it did. That book, the first book I had ever truly read was Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. That was huge accomplishment for a dyslexic like me.



What reading experiences changed your attitude toward reading? Have you ever read Doctor Zhivago?


You can connect with Susan P. Cooper and her social media websites via her website and blog Finding our Way Now.



Susan Cooper is a former teacher. She left teaching to go into sales and ultimately became an executive for marketing advertising at various companies in the print media industry.

Susan Cooper
As a very young child, Susan was a prolific dreamer, with clear images and in vivid color. Her father was a psychology major and used her as his case study for analyzing dreams. He taught her the various skills and tools to use to determine what her dreams were trying to tell her. As she grew so did her interest and her skill level. Susan is still analyzing her dreams today, along with helping others to do the same who are interested in what a dream may really mean.


It has always been her fervent hope that by helping others to gain a basic understanding of dream images and what they mean, that it will give an individual the opportunity to improve and understand their waking life in concert with their dream life


You can also read my guest post that appeared on Susan’s blog on using the Breville Mini Pie Maker. It was a prize given during her Christmas blog giveaway.


Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2013.

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