While people might be surprised to learn that a published author has dyslexia, Stapleton resident and author of middle school fantasy fiction Anthony Kerr has struggled with the learning disability all his life.
“There is nothing like tackling a task that seemed impossible when you were growing up, such as writing a book, and actually accomplishing it,” says Kerr, who published his first novel, The Dragon Rustler, last year. “I was lucky enough to have had a teacher that attended a seminar on dyslexia over the summer before I started first grade. Within a month, she recognized that I was struggling with reading and writing.”
According to the Dyslexia Research Institute, 10 to 15 percent of the U.S. population has dyslexia, and approximately 60 percent of those diagnosed with the disorder also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
“My teacher realized that I was compensating through memorization to keep up with the rest of the class. I would memorize whole books that were being read to me and recite them back as if I were reading them myself. I won a reading award in kindergarten for being so proficient, but in reality, I couldn’t read.”
He says that technology has helped to even the playing field for him, making it possible to pursue a career as an author.
“The advent of spell-checker changed my life, but only if I can get a word close enough to what I intend. Words like ‘different’ or ‘unconscious’ usually take me two or three tries. Also, utilizing text-to-speech, I can have the computer read back to me what I have written to check for errors that my eyes easily skip over. I can’t tell you how many times spell-check substitutes in a word that visually looks similar to what I intended but is a different word altogether.”
For many people with dyslexia and ADHD, their condition can limit their ability to find jobs if they have not had proper diagnosis and help. Despite his struggle with dyslexia, Kerr has held high-level positions in the technology industry, where his skill for thinking creatively was often rewarded.
“When I started working in corporate America, my managers quickly discovered I had a knack for giving presentations. I was funny, quick on my feet, and I spoke naturally, almost in a conversational manner. But what they didn’t realize is this was a coping strategy developed over the years to hide a deep embarrassment for not being able to read out loud. If I had to read from a script, a teleprompter, or even a simple list of names for awards and recognition, I would struggle, often covering up my mistakes with a joke or two.”
Kerr says most people with dyslexia go through school without being diagnosed with a learning disability. “They either struggle, being labeled as dumb or lazy, or drop out altogether. The hardest part of having dyslexia—and I have to believe other specific learning disabilities—is the shame you feel at being different. I don’t think that ever truly leaves you.”
Kerr’s second book of his fantasy series is soon to be released and he says he plans to keep writing. “Technology aside, nothing can substitute for a supportive group of friends and family who help and cheer you on as you tackle something challenging,” he says.
Anthony A. Kerr is the author of The Dragon Rustler (Cowboys and Dragons Book 1) and the soon-to-be-released The Dragon Riders (Cowboys and Dragons Book 2). Visit