When I was in elementary school I had no idea why I struggled with reading comprehension. I could read and I could read fast but remembering what I read? How the hell does one do that? I didn’t know I have aphantasia and that others were being literal about seeing pictures in their head. I have aphantasia in ALL the senses (technically aphantasia just refers to pictures but the other senses don’t have words as far as I know, so you know I mean). I love having aphantasia because reasons. That’s not what this post is about. If you are going to pity me over it, i’m going to ignore you. That could be it’s own post. We all think differently, and yes I can think just fine, it’s just different. (Please note: If you have aphantasia you are allowed to feel however you feel about it)
Anyway because I thought differently and didn’t know that, I struggled and no one could help me. Aphantasia wasn’t a word (even though it was described back in the 1880s) in the 90s. It became a word in 2015. I graduated high school in 2007.
School didn’t help me and the books I had to read for school were so boring and unrelatable (I loved The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton I had to read in 7th grade, because I could feel for the characters. That is the ONLY book I read for school I enjoyed). I couldn’t find any representation for people like me. Disabled kids. Queer kids (also grew up in homophobic because religious family). I didn’t know i’m autistic then either so I could add neurodivergent to the list. And to top it off, I wasn’t allowed to read some things I wanted to, like Harry Potter (because religion). All that combined, i’m surprised I didn’t hate reading with a passion, but it did turn me off.
Thankfully I found Goosebumps as a kid and loved it! Goosebumps, Fear Street. I didn’t read a ton but I enjoyed reading them when I could and a couple other odd books maybe. I’ve always loved the horror genre.
After high school, I didn’t read much. I read a little but mostly, if not completely, books about paganism now that I could explore that because adult. I thought I was “too old” for Harry Potter so it was “too little too late” for me there.
At 26, almost 27, years old in late 2015 I realized I was being dumb. And i’d always had a desire to read, despite my frustration. I still didn’t know about aphantasia though, even though at that point it had been named. It was like 2019 by the time I heard of aphantasia.
I started with Harry Potter, of course. I read it and watched the movies. Loved it. Where do I go from there though? Look up harry potter reviews on YouTube! I found BookTube and it spiraled from there. I read the Across the Universe series by Beth Revis next, and fell in love. Slowly I read more and more. I even found representation about characters like me, finally! Seriously, almost 27 when I read a book with the first bisexual representation i’d ever seen. Even later to find some disabled rep.
I learned I just had to slow the fuck down. I was reading too fast. I couldn’t process what I read. I had to learn it’s ok to whisper read (I can read silently to a degree but after so much it gets difficult and a mix of silent + whisper-reading is really what helps me the most). I was taught to stop doing that in elementary school, making the already difficult task of reading comprehension (well remembering) so much harder. I thought I was so dumb growing up.
I can think in silent words as well as it’s like stuff is going on on a computer screen with the monitor turned off. What I mean is, picture a desktop computer with a monitor and a tower. The tower is on and working. The monitor works. The speakers are unplugged or off. The monitor is off but the computer is working just fine. My brain is the computer. The files are there. I just can’t see the monitor.
Another way to think about it is there is stuff going on in a sound proof room I can’t see into because i’m outside of it but somehow I know exactly what’s going on inside. Well I don’t know things like colors or details but I know the basics. I know people are moving around etc. It’s hard to describe but i’m trying. I can “feel” the scene in my head, I just don’t hear it or see it (or technically “feel” anything as in the touch sense but there’s no other word for it).
So if I slow down and take the time to process the words and “feel” the scene/story, I can read just fine. No I won’t fucking remember what color stuff was or what clothes they wore unless i’m beaten over the head with it, because that stuff doesn’t matter (to me). I remember the characters, their personalities, the themes, what I thought and felt. There’s a reason you will never hear me say “but they don’t look like how I pictured them!” in regards to a book to movie adaptation. I simply don’t have that problem! I can understand certain things are important though in that regard.
Now I realize reading comprehension wasn’t my issue really. I could understand things, I just couldn’t remember things because I wasn’t letting myself process it. I’m slow to process but if I let myself process I can understand just fine.
I love to read now and am an avid reader. I don’t need to be a fast reader. I don’t need to be “the best”. I just need to have fun and enjoy reading.