Book by Naperville North student inspires youth with dyslexia and other learning roadblocks

Just in time for National Dyslexia Awareness Month in October, Naperville North High School junior Rory Andrlik - who lives and learns with dyslexia - has written a children's book based on her own experiences to inspire other young students who struggle to read, write and spell like she did.

Rory's new book, "The Reading Roar: A Magical Learning Journey," is independently published and available for purchase on Amazon. The early reader children's book follows a young dragon named Ember, who has a hard time reading and writing. By embarking on a magical journey, Ember makes new friends and completes three challenges, each of which help empower her to achieve her goals and teach her valuable lessons about reading, resiliency and perseverance.

The book is written for young readers, ages 6 to 10, which was how old Rory was when she and parents recognized her learning differences.

"I earn mostly A grades, am bilingual in both English and Spanish, and have exciting plans for college, but elementary school wasn't easy," Rory said. "I remember how embarrassing it was in second and third grade. I couldn't spell very well and would pretend to read books around my classmates. In fourth and fifth grades, my literacy tutor helped me to discover that I needed to learn how to spell and read in a different way, using multiple senses."

A common misconception about dyslexia is that literacy challenges are correlated to intelligence, but a multitude of interdisciplinary studies have proved that incorrect and instead highlight that dyslexia is a result of the neurodiversity that exists within all humans. This diversity in the circuitry of the brain makes cracking the alphabetic code more difficult but allows for many dyslexics to have remarkable strengths in other areas.

"I first started working with Rory in 2016, when she was just 9 years old," said Lori Jurjovec, Rory's former literacy tutor. "I knew from that first session that this was a special kid! Over the four years that we worked together, Rory always came in with a smile, ready to work, and eager to learn. Having to put in extra hours after being in school all day is not easy, but Rory never once complained. She was determined to push past the roadblocks dyslexia presented."

The multisensory learning program that worked for Rory is called the Barton System, which uses a reader's auditory, visual and tactile senses to connect sounds with words. The program is influenced by the Orton-Gillingham Approach, which breaks reading and spelling down into smaller skills. Rory took care to weave these crucial learning styles into the plot of "The Reading Roar."

Rory spent several months, including her summer break, working through multiple drafts of the book alongside her father, an author of history books, who helped guide her through the editing and publishing process. A participant in District 203's Dual Language program, Rory has been educated in both English and Spanish since kindergarten.

As a high school junior, she is now in her 12th year of Spanish instruction and has used her second-language skills to help translate her book into a Spanish edition, which is also available on Amazon under the title "El Rugido De La Lectura: Un Viaje De Aprendizaje Mágico."

"I want young students to know they're not alone if they struggle with spelling and reading, and that there are different ways to learn and become a great reader and writer," said Rory.

In addition to using the book to raise awareness about dyslexia, Rory recently spoke on a teen panel for Everyone Reading Illinois, one of the state's leading dyslexia organizations, and also recently shared her journey in front of 200 parents and teachers at an event hosted by the Dyslexia Action Group of Naperville.

"Rory is a determined high school student with dyslexia who took a courageous step to share her personal learning struggles," said Jenine Hanson, president of the Dyslexia Action Group of Naperville. "In a candid and heartfelt moment at one of our events, Rory recounted the challenges she faced throughout her educational journey, emphasizing how dyslexia had posed significant obstacles to her reading and writing skills. Rory recognized the power of her story as a source of hope and encouragement, particularly for younger children. Her book draws from her own experiences and emphasizes the importance of seeking help early on, as well as the joy and confidence that comes from mastering reading and writing skills. Rory's determination and willingness to make a difference serve as an inspiring example for both students and adults alike."

As many as 67 million Americans, or up to 20 percent of the U.S. population, present symptoms of dyslexia and are likely to struggle with aspects of traditional learning, according to the International Dyslexia Association. The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity states that it is the most common of all neurocognitive disorders and represents 80 to 90% of all those with learning disabilities.

As Rory has proved, dyslexia may make learning some things more difficult, but it doesn't make them impossible.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.