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Ptahra wasn’t good at reading. How did she learn stuff?

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What did Ptahra’s 3rd grade teacher do to help her learn?

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Why do you think Ptahra wanted to be tested?

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Why Can't I Read?

By Ptahra Jeppe, M.S. Ed, J.D.

Hi! My name is Ptahra Jeppe. I am not a good reader. But I am smart and I am successful. I want to tell you my story because you can be successful, too, even if you have reading or learning challenges.


I was born in New York City. New York City isn’t very big, but a lot of people live there!

I grew up in a house where my parents loved books and learning. I told you that I am not a good reader. So how did I learn that stuff? My parents read to me and I became curious about the world. I went to pre-school knowing a lot of big words. Most of the kids at my pre-school could read already, so everyone thought that I could read, too. They were wrong.

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One day, my teacher asked us to take turns reading. “I want each of you to read a sentence,” she said. “I’ll help you with the hard words.” We were sitting in a circle on the floor. When it was my turn, I could not read any of the words.

“Let’s sound it out,” said my teacher. She made these sounds: ssssss — eeeee. “What word is that?” she asked. I had no idea.

And listen to this. I got in trouble for not trying to read. Not trying? I was trying with all my might. That’s when I first knew that something was wrong.


The next four years of school were horrible. My teachers knew that I could not read. My parents knew that I could not read. But no one knew why. They tried to help me, but nothing was working.

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My teacher in 3rd grade was a big help. At first, she read almost everything out loud. That’s all I needed! If I could hear something, I could understand and remember it. My spelling was terrible, but my teacher didn’t care about that. “Just spell the words the best you can,” she said. “I’ll figure out what you’re trying to say.”

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But at the end of 3rd grade, my class had a big reading test. Right before the test, my teacher said, “Ptahra, I can’t read the test to you. You just do the best you can.” I wrote my name on the test book, but that was all! I looked at the other students.  They were reading away. They were writing their answers. I could not do it. My test book was blank. I cried.


“What’s wrong with me?” I asked. “Learning to read shouldn’t be so hard! Every kid in my class can do it!”

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At that time, I was also in a dance class. I could learn new dance steps. That was easy. But reading? Impossible.

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Finally, my teacher called a meeting with my parents. “I want to have Ptahra tested,” she said. I want to know why she can’t learn to read.”

Please! I thought. Please tell me why!

I got tested. I learned that I couldn’t read! I had a learning problem called dyslexia.

“People with dyslexia can learn to read,” they told me. “But they must learn to read in a different way.”

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