Have you ever said (or heard someone say), “I’m so bad at math?”
I’m sure you’ve heard it from a bunch of people. It easily rolls off the tongue when you’re trying to figure out how much to tip, estimate the square footage of your living room, or when your kid wants to know how many minutes there are in eight years for some reason. While the numbers bump around in your brain, you say the almost automatic disclaimer: “I’m terrible at math.”
Now let’s say someone gives you a challenging piece of text. Maybe it’s from an advanced textbook, some hardcore classic liturature, or a professional journal with a bunch of field-specific jargon that you’re not familiar with. Would you ever say, “Ugh, I’m so bad at reading.”?
No? Yeah, me either.
This question was posed to me a few months ago, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. No one I know would easily admit they have difficulty reading anything; they’d never laugh and make jokes about how much they struggle. Spelling, maybe, but not reading. It shows how deeply ingrained it is in our culture that Reading Struggles = Very Bad.
It doesn’t matter if it’s actually true.
It’s true because nearly everyone buys into it.
This belief, or ideology, is so deep, that people with reading challenges are stigmatized by society and have long-lasting emotional issues. To illustrate this point, let's look at a few facts: