Author Kate Scott
has come a long way from not knowing the alphabet at age eight to becoming a published writer. We sat down with her to discuss the publication of her new book, Counting to D
, which features a dyslexic protagonist named Sam Wilson. When Sam moves to a new town, she decides to hide her learning disability from her peers, but soon finds it difficult to maintain the charade while keeping her grades up.
Like her character Sam, Kate also has dyslexia, and she shared with us what that meant for her while growing up, and how it affects her now as an author and avid reader.
Are events in the book based on your personal childhood experiences?
Academically, it follows my own experience as closely as possible, for the sake of accuracy. The coping skills are the same as what I did growing up, but the events of the book are all fiction.
Did you, like Sam, try to hide your dyslexia?
No, I was sort of proud of my dyslexia!
What are some coping mechanisms you recommend for kids with dyslexia?
Definitely audiobooks. Back when I was a kid, Learning Ally-- then Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic-- saved my life. That's the biggest thing. Listen to books as much as you can if you can't read print -- and also listen in life. If you pay close attention to what's going on around you, it's a lot easier to get by when you're not reading things.
When did you start writing?
I've always had a really active imagination, and I made up a lot of stories when I was a kid. I didn't really start writing until my twenties, when I felt like I had a strong enough grasp of written language to be able to try it.
How has dyslexia affected you as a writer?
In the simplest sense, I think dyslexia has affected the level of imagination that I have. Even though I did listen to a lot of audiobooks as a kid, I loved stories growing up and I couldn't just read them myself, so I had to make them up. I think if you can always pick up a book by someone else, you're less likely to be inventing your own stories. I also think my oral comprehension is a lot higher than most people's because it took me so long to learn how to read and I had to listen to so much more, it's made it so it's easier to pick up on subtleties of language. In that sense dyslexia has probably made me a better writer, even though I'm a horrible speller. I understand language.
The book dedication reads, "For Marjorie. Thanks for teaching me how to read." Who is Marjorie?
When I was diagnosed in third grade, I was setup with a private tutor named Marjorie. I met with her three times a week for four years, working with the Orton-Gillingham method. I didn't know the alphabet when I was eight and now I'm an author, so I would say tutoring worked well for me.
What advice would you give to kids who are going through school with dyslexia?
Don’t try to be like everybody else. The cliché "think outside the box" is a cliché for a reason. If you were born "outside the box," don’t force yourself into it. I feel like all the success in my life is because I see the world in a different way than everybody else. Constantly trying to fit in and be the same as everyone else is just setting yourself up for failure.
What are the major themes of Counting to D?
The book is about self-discovery and accepting who you are, and not just for the main character who is dyslexic but for the other characters too. As she’s making new friends, Sam realizes everyone has insecurities.
Why did you choose to write a young adult book?
I like young adult books— both reading and writing them. As an adult, there are changes in your life, but to an extent you’re settled in to who you are and there aren’t many changes on a day-to-day basis. Whereas in adolescence, you’re at the age where you’re old enough to be independent and make decisions for yourself, but also the whole world is still open to you, and you’re still deciding who you want to be when you grow up. I think it’s a really fun age to work with and write about.
Do you think people will identify with Sam?
I’ve been told that Sam is a very relatable character, by people both with and without dyslexia. Something everyone needs to realize is that dyslexic kids and people with other disabilities really aren’t that different than everyone else—we’re all human. Dyslexia is a huge part of who Sam is—it affects how she interacts with people and how she sees the world—but she’s still just a person. Everyone has something that’s affecting who they are and how they see the world.
Counting to D is now available in Learning Ally's library soon.