From struggling with severe dyslexia in 4th grade to enjoying Tolstoy in her high school AP Literature class, Catherine Manner has bucked the odds. At our 35th annual Gala in Washington DC, Catherine came to the podium to accept this year's William L. Ritchie Learning Through Listening scholarship award and share her wonderful story with our donors, volunteers and friends.
"When I was in the 4th grade, I was diagnosed with a learning disability - I have Dyslexia and an auditory processing disorder. As a 4th grader, I could barely read and write, and really struggled with basic elementary skills.
"When my parents approached my teachers, they would respond that I was a hard-working child, and that I would 'grow out of it.' After 4th grade, I still struggled with my reading and writing skills, and my parents had me privately tested. A physiologist told my parents to start saving money for a private school specializing in learning disabilities because my disability was so severe that she did not think I would be able to perform well in a public school.
"After I was put in the special education program, one of my teachers told my mother about the services of RFB&D. She signed me up for the service in 5th grade and ordered Harry Potter. My father had read me the Harry Potter books, but I could never read such a difficult and long book on my own. Once I got the book on CD, I could read along while it was read to me. I ended up reading the whole series using the audiobook, and even continued to read other books for fun.
"While I was in middle school, I ordered my textbooks on CD. History and English reading assignments and studying were no longer struggles. I learned to vary the pace of the reading on my CD to a level that I could comprehend. As I continued on in school, I used the CDs for all of my school textbooks with large reading content and for assigned English novels. By the time I was a junior, I took my first AP class, Environmental Science. The college textbook was filled with tough words, but with the use of the CD I was able to keep up. In fact, I was confident enough that for my senior year, I signed up for AP English Literature and AP Government.
"I never thought I would be able to read an 817-page book, but this winter, I finished Anna Karenina, written by Tolstoy. Without listening to the book, I can guarantee you that I would have gotten very behind in my class and would not have been able to comprehend it as well as I was able to. I give a lot of credit to Learning Ally for giving me the tools I needed to take on an advanced English class. In my eyes, this past year has been one of the most successful in my life.
"And I want to thank Learning Ally for the tools they have given me to be successful. Thank you for this award."