Joanne Kaminski’s Journey as a Struggling Reader

Joanne Kaminski’s Journey as a Struggling Reader

Skyping Reading Tutor

My name is Joanne Kaminski, the Skyping Reading tutor, and this is my journey as a struggling reader.  My very first memory of reading was when I was 5 years old.  I was sitting in my living room and we had all of our family over the house for Thanksgiving.  I brought out a book and I asked my mom to teach me how to read.  Well, I bet you can imagine, she was a little bit busy that day and she said, “no.”  I didn’t give up there.  I went on to my cousin Cathy and asked her to teach me to read.  She was 5 years older than me and she had the same response as my mom.  I was heartbroken that no one would teach me how to read.  So, I longingly looked at the words in the book wishing that they would somehow jump off of the page and into my brain so that I could hear the story that was written.  No one really ever read to me, so I didn’t know that this was an option.  All I knew was that the words on that page conveyed a story and I wanted to know it.


I would like to tell you that I kept asking and found someone that would help me learn how to read, but I gave up that day.  My mom saw how much I loved stories and eventually she got my some books on tape.  Yes, they were tapes back in those days.  She must have signed up for a Disney subscription because I remember Sleeping Beauty and Brer Rabbit very clearly.


When I began learning how to read in school everyone was ahead of me.  I was in the lowest reading group, the Blue Jays, and I knew it.  All I wanted more than anything in the world was to become a better reader.  I mean, didn’t these people know what I was going to do for the rest of my life? Didn’t they know that one day I would own my own e tutoring company and that I just wanted to get a head start?  Apparently I knew my calling from a very early age, everyone else just was not on the same page as me.


I remember when we would have to read out loud in class in round robin style.  When I would read out loud, I didn’t sound like the other kids.  The teacher would give me advice about making my voice go up and down in front of all the other kids.  The other kids never got this kind of advice and this made feel more self-conscious about my reading.  Back then they didn’t have reading fluency interventions.  So I felt like there was something wrong with me.


As school continued I scored poorly on the state tests and continued to get put in the lowest reading group.  I remember in 6th grade kids started to take a foreign language, but because of my reading comprehension scores I was denied this and put in another reading program for struggling readers.


I felt less than, devalued, and diminished.  Even the kids in the reading class made fun of me.  I felt stupid and worthless.  I continued on my middle school years this way, which were some of the toughest days of my life.


One day a teacher at a parent/teacher conference suggested to my mom that she read with me.  My mom took her up on this suggestion and began reading Anne of Green Gables.  She would read a page and then I would read a page.  This was my most prized memory of reading with my mom.  It built a feeling of being loved and accepted all while being immersed in Anne’s world inCanada.  I found out later on in life that my dad’s whole family came fromPrince Edward   Islandwhere the story took place.  Anne of Green Gables became a series and I read every single book in that series.  This is were I got my mantra, if you hook a reader into a series, then you hook him/her into reading for life.


This was the first book that I ever read over and over again.  I remembered the beautiful trees that were described in the beginning of the story when Anne was first arriving at Green Gables.  It captured my heart.  I remember how talkative Anne was and fell in love with this imaginative little girl.  I could relate with the character and I longed to experience life in this book as Anne.


Today, I am no longer at the bottom of my class.  I graduated fromMarquetteUniversitywith Suma Cum Laude.  I went on to get my masters and graduated as a Reading Specialist with a 4.0.  I struggled to get where I am today and reading was never easy as a child, but I love reading more than anything else in the world.  I love to learn and immerse myself in learning new things and above all I love teaching kids to read.  I take into account the feelings that kids struggling go through because I was one of those kids.  I incorporate positive reinforcement techniques and make kids feel like they are good enough, smart enough, and wonderful enough to accomplish the things that they want to accomplish in life.  I tell my students that it doesn’t matter what level they are reading at right now.  I will get them far beyond where they need to be.  I have tips and tricks that have gotten me through school and I had to learn the hard way.  I teach them these tips and tricks and make learning easy for them.


No child should be made to feel less than because he/she does not learn the typical way that is acceptable in schools.  All children have a right to an appropriate education whether they are a struggling reader or not.  I am here to speed up the learning curve for kids and to find that path to educational success.  Whether a child is struggling a little bit with reading, or whether he/she is in need of a dyslexia tutoring program, I am here to help.  This is my passion and my path in life.


  1. Renee Love says:

    Joanne, your story resonates with me and I know it will with many others. You have the skill set to make a difference in many lives around the world! It makes sense that you struggled and knew the pain of being devalued; the way you encouraged me and helped me in ways no other person has. It is sometimes hard to look back at those painful times; but knowing how much you have helped me improve makes the future that much brighter.

    As an adult my goals were a bit different that most of her students. However, I have reached those goals and others I never thought were possible. I have much more confidence in my reading skills and even in my written communication. Most unexpected of all was the confidence spilling over to the rest of my life. I find people respond to me with more respect and as a result my business endeavors have become more successful!

    I encourage others to seek Joanne’s help with reading for themselves or a child.

  2. Thanks for sharing your inspirational story. I am a literacy tutor and will definitely be back for tips and inspiration.
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  3. Ali Bierman
    Twitter: alibierman

    Great piece. Thanks for sharing and for being an advocate for people like you helping them so they don’t get lost in the numbers.
    My Bubby came from Russia at the age of 19. She tried going to school to learn to read. There were no adult reading programs at the time. And Russian and Yiddish were her natual languages. The kids laughed at her and she dropped out. She was a brilliant lade– but never did learn how to read.
    Thankfully there are more opportunities today–but not everyone has access or knows about them.
    Ali Bierman recently posted..Relationships: Why I Help People Create Amazing RelationshipsMy Profile

  4. Annie

    It makes me so sad when our struggling students are denied an elective (FUN class) based on test scores. Thank you for sharing your story! You do such important work.
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  5. What a great post. I appreciate your honesty about your struggles and your success story. The most passionate teachers I know are the ones who had to work to get there. I love to read and for me reading was an escape from my crazy family. It was my safe place that I could run to anytime! Thanks for inspiring kids to read. I truly believe reading and writing are the two skills that will take us anywhere we want to go.
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  6. I’m so grateful for the tutor who helped my son to read!
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