Site icon Shaky Quaky Reading and Writing Gramma

Hi! This is Gramma Kelly & Freyja

I guess you could say I was a “reader” since birth. My mom would lay me next to her on the couch and read the newspaper aloud to me as soon as they brought me home from the hospital! Many happy reading times as a preschooler and books were important in our family. When the Mid-Columbia library truck came down our street, we got excited even though we were just little kids who couldn’t read. So many books to choose! We eagerly loaded our arms full of books to have read to us.

I remember starting kindergarten at Vista Elementary. The excitement over WORDS! Reading and writing. Especially reading. I had soon read the whole shelf of graded readers in our classroom and all my picture books at home. Anything that had words on it I read, including shampoo bottles in the bathtub and cereal boxes at breakfast! I knew how to read but couldn’t cut with scissors and boy, was it hard to learn! I still struggle with that and other fine motor motions. Everyone’s brain works differently and mine thought I was ready to put sounds and letters together. Sometimes it’s reversed and kids can cut with scissors and not read. And you know what, that’s more than okay. We are all unique and special just the way we are. When your brain says you’re ready, it’s time to try. All anyone can do is keep trying and not give up. It doesn’t make you less valuable as a person if you are never ready. Sometimes you just can’t read no matter how hard you try. Some kid’s brains just have a tough time figuring it out at all, BUT EVERYONE, even grown-ups, love hearing words read to them and talking about the story. It’s about relationships with those reading to you and the words on the page that take you places in your imagination. ALL kids, no matter whether they read or not, deserve to have someone read to them and even after they are reading chapter books or are teenagers. A great classic picture book is fun even for grown-ups!

By third grade, I was walking down the long, lonely hall to the big kid’s classroom. The books in my classroom were considered too easy for me and was that ever scary! It’s no fun being different even if all the adults think it’s a good thing. That was the year I got glasses, so I didn’t have to read with the book pressed up against my nose! (I had been passing all the vision screenings in elementary school by memorizing what the other kids said was on the chart! If you are a grown-up reading this, regular individualized vision screenings are important for kids.)                                                                            

In sixth grade, I was in a school with study carrels to keep students from talking to each other. We were able to set our own schedules and work alone on workbooks. I would make my workbook assignment the least pages I could and then read my way through the encyclopedias and National Geographics in the corner of the classroom. I learned about faraway and exotic places. Far from the bullies and kids who called me names at school because I was different. I hope you treat all your friends with respect and kindness. Being different is a good thing because you need to be true to yourself and who you really are. Books were my friends and stayed my friends throughout the busy high school years of debate, interpretative reading, creative writing, and general studies to graduate.

After I had my own kids, we taught them at home, and we read every day. They could read whatever they wanted but reading was something we did every day. My kids are five years apart in age, so my son spent a certain amount of time playing with Legos while I read to them. You would be surprised at how much he remembered from our readings as he played, listening! By homeschooling we had time for fun experiments, field trips and studying things like ancient Egypt and the Greek gods from books! But in 2000, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. My brain is missing some chemicals and I would get sad, depressed, and then get really hyper, manic, even in the same day! Extreme feelings and emotional highs and lows. Life became difficult because I had to take medicine and be careful to get extra sleep. My family went through a lot. My kids spent weeks without me until the doctors said I could go home. Hang in there if you have a lot of medical problems. Don’t give up if one thing doesn’t work or it gives you limitations to overcome. Persevere and do your best to listen and learn all you can about your condition. You might figure out something the doctors haven’t. It has taken twenty-two years of changes in medications and doctors, but I have it mostly figured out and want to help others who have brains that work differently, especially kids, see that they are important just the way they are. You don’t need to change to have acceptance as you are and be included. That’s why I write books. Every brain is different. EVERY PERSON IS ONE-OF-A-KIND. THAT’S SPECTACULAR! SO MUCH DIVERSITY! What a boring place the world would be without you! There is only one you! Celebrate who you are and be proud of what makes you different. Even some grown-ups don’t have that figured out so be patient with everybody. You need to practice kindness in all you do. In the end we are all just trying to get through life the best we can.

(A lot of famous people have had bipolar disorder. Carrie Fisher, Winston Churchill, Russell Brand, Vincent Van Gogh and Demi Lovato to name a few.)

 After my kids grew up, I went back to college and finished my Early Childhood Education degree and went to work with preschoolers. Then in 2013 I was diagnosed with Essential Tremor caused by all the medications I was taking. ET is a disorder characterized by rhythmic shaking of hands, head, and other body parts with no known cause. (Kathryn Hepburn had ET.)  It makes eating, writing and doing a lot of things difficult. I can’t use a mouse very well with the computer or eat with a regular fork. I use weighted utensils and even then, sometimes a spoon for my salad! I spill cups that are more than half full, so I have a water bottle that won’t spill. I don’t use the stove only the microwave. It made me very sad, and I miss being around them every day, but I couldn’t do my daily teaching duties. Things like filling out forms, passing out snacks or taking pictures of classroom activities. I retired to write children’s books, something I had dreamed of in high school. In 2022 I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, a new adventure just beginning.

  I consider myself a literacy activist because I help my little friends find books that interest them and I tutored ESL students, people who had English as a second language, during my college years. Every book isn’t for every child, but there is a book for every child, and I delight in matching up books and young people! I have a precarious perch of books on my nightstand…and desk…and kitchen counter…. ALL different types of books!

I belong to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) and follow the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) and Child Mind Institute publications and forums to stay up to date in the field of mental health. In addition to picture books, I am revising my first middle grade novel with a protagonist who has bipolar disorder.

As the Shaky Quaky Reading and Writing Gramma, I support the International Essential Tremor Foundation (IETF) and follow their online forums and publications for the latest developments in ET. I also support the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. I am getting used to speaking in public while shaking and quaking. My new picture book has a young boy quaking and shaking because ET can happen at any age. Everyone deserves to be accepted for who they are, especially children!

Links to all the groups I support are on the home page. If you want to learn more or know someone struggling to be true to who they are, click on a link.

There are some great reading activities and spectacular reading lists at the Growing Book by Book website that also has a link!

The only way to reduce the discrimination (let’s call stigma what it really is) is with education and everyone talking about what makes us all different and how boring it would be if everyone were the same!

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