What Would Your Life Be Like If You Couldn’t Read Or Write?

…blind, baby/Blind to the fact of who you are, maybe?
– Jay Z (We Made It)

If you couldn’t read or write you wouldn’t be able to use the Internet, talk more reading this post. So, read on.

I almost named this post ‘What Is Stopping You’ but at the risk of sounding cliche or motivational and stabbing this issue indirectly, I rather took the direct route of addressing it head-on.

The first time I heard about dyslexia was while reading Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants’.

Before that, I never knew there was something like a learning disability.

I mean, I grew up in Africa.

I still live in Africa.

Naturally, things like this sound alien. Almost inconceivable even.

How can you tell me that my child isn’t retarded or rebellious? That the only reason why he struggles in school is that he has a learning disability.

For the life of me, I can’t imagine a parent sitting still listening to a doctor say all of this.

Wikipedia explains it thus:
Dyslexia, also known as reading disorder, is characterized by trouble with reading despite normal intelligence. Different people are affected to varying degrees. Problems may include difficulties in spelling words, reading quickly, writing words, “sounding out” words in the head, pronouncing words when reading aloud and understanding what one reads.

I remember this one time in SS1.

After our second continuous assessment tests for the term, I walked up to one of my classmates and asked him how his tests had gone.

He replied, “Uche, I no sabi wetin happen. I read yesterday night but I no remember anything.”

This wasn’t amnesia or someone suffering from some temporal forgetfulness.

It was a documented fact that this guy struggled with school.

What’s even ironic is that this wasn’t due to a lack of trying.

On his part or his parent’s part.

This wasn’t some sort of genetic predisposition either.

If I had to count off the top of my head, his father was one of the most brilliant men I knew growing up.

What was the problem?

Our teachers would even beat him, bate him and ridicule him relentlessly while the rest of us laughed.

I remember all of that and my heart aches.

On Friday, while we were working, my boss kept playing some retro hits from a slew of old songs on his laptop.

My workspace is a cool place. My boss is one of the coolest persons in the world too.

While these songs kept playing and we sang along and worked, some R. Kelly songs came on.

Naturally, we started trading facts about R. Kelly. And then BOOM!

We discovered R. Kelly was dyslexic.

This man can’t READ or WRITE.

The first question that came to my mind was “how did he manage to write all those hit songs over the years?”

The answer came in an interview he gave.

“I never write anything down, since I’ve been in the songwriting business – 20 years, I never write anything on paper, everything comes off the top of my head. I get in there, do the track, and whatever the track feels like, that’s what I do.”

Kelly has sold over 75 million records worldwide, making him the most successful R&B male artist of the 1990s and one of the world’s best-selling music artists. He is the 55th best-selling music artist in the United States, with over 32 million album sales. Kelly was named by Billboard as the Top R&B/Hip Hop Artist between 1985-2010 and the most successful R&B artist in history.

This is someone who can’t READ or WRITE.

This is not a post extolling R. Kelly’s greatness or virtues.

My love for his music or my awe of his greatness can’t dim the light around his personal life and his documented issues with women. I don’t and would never support that.

This post is for you.

Literacy data published by UNESCO displays that the adult literacy rate at the world level was 86.2 percent in 2015. Although the number of illiterate adults is about 745 million. About two-thirds (63%) of the world’s illiterate adults are women. Children make up a very large number too.

Read through Malcolm Gladwell’s book and you’ll see many notable folks that overcame their inability to read or write to achieve the impossible.

If someone who can’t read or write can be such a profound success, then what is holding you back?

Don’t tell me it’s talent, please.

Money? Background? Fear?

Or are you just blind to the fact of who you are, maybe?

While you think about this have a great week.

And be kind to people who you meet who can’t read or write, children especially. It could be a learning disability.

I appreciate your comments. They even help me to curate future posts. Please, keep commenting. Thank you.
PS: I’ve decided to start sharing any books I’m currently reading, or just any book of note I’ve read in the past with you guys.
My book for this week is Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.

Uche Okoro

Writer. Sales & Marketing. Business & Investing Afficionado.

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