32 million Americans cannot read. This Puyallup man is trying to bring this epidemic to the national spotlight.
By TRIBAL NEWS STAFF
William Manzanares IV faked his way through school. Counting desks and paragraphs, he would estimate which paragraph he’d be assigned to read aloud to the class, and then spend the time leading up to his turn trying to memorize each word of the passage.
Then, when it came time, no one would know he couldn’t read.Will has heard it all before—that he was cheating, that he was not doing things correctly, and that by not doing these things, he would never be successful. But he doesn’t see it that way. Now a business owner several times over, an avid reader, and a published author, Will chalks a lot of his success up to his superpower— the way he learned to listen, since he couldn’t read.
“You have the unique ability to turn a negative situation into a positive. You can adopt and grow to become a better person because the odds are against you—not in spite of them being so,” Will writes. “The strategies you have-and will develop-do not make you weaker. They make you stronger.”
This passage comes from Will’s new book, I Can’t Read: A Guide to Success Through Failure, released on June 25, 2019.
Will has been writing I Can’t Read for the last four years, although he says he really has been working on it his whole life. Inspired through his own successes and failures, and the conversations he’s had with others who can’t read, Will decided it was time he share his story. “I know there are a lot of Tribal members who are suffering in silence, and have never said anything,” he said. “But if I can stand up and say I struggled, and I have solutions, here’s what I used, maybe they can be inspired, too.”
Will describes I Can’t Read as a “personal memoir of my journey struggling, written for the people who are going through it, and for the parents or teachers who have a child going through it.” Will anticipates his readers either struggle with illiteracy themselves or know someone who does—since 32 million Americans cannot read.
“It’s not talked about,” he said. “Illiteracy is an epidemic worldwide.”
These figures may not include the 43.5 million Americans who are dyslexic— broken down, that’s one in ve. More so, Will expects these numbers to be consistent throughout the Puyallup Tribe. “If I take these numbers and throw them into the Tribe, at least 1,000 – 1,500 people can’t read,” he said.
Will recognizes this as a big problem that is still not getting the attention it deserves. Much like traditional storytelling, “reading is a way to pass down knowledge to the next generation,” he says. Without this integral skill, many Tribal members do not have access to the stories they may need.
“Storytelling helps you make sense of the world,” Will said. Which is exactly why he chose to share his own story. “When I think back to my little self who kept dreaming they could help people one day, I feel like this is the legacy I can leave. Someone can learn from my mistakes and be better for it.”
In an effort to reach his intended audience as effectively as possible, I Can’t Read is available in print through Amazon, and in audio through Audible. Audio books was one of the main tools Will used to teach himself to read— through listening and following along. By age 32, he became an avid reader. “It changed my life multiple times over,” he said.
Will hopes his audio book will help reach those who, as he once did, struggle to read—which is part of the reason he decided to record it himself.
“It was terrifying, but I had to finish the book, the deadlines were here. So, I did what I’d been scared to do my whole life—read publicly,” he said. “This book even helped me with one last step I didn’t see coming.”
Not only does Will hope that sharing his story will help those who struggle with reading, but he wants others to share their own stories. “I’m hoping this will inspire other Tribal members to write the book they want to write,” he said. And should they need advice, his door is always open.
Despite the judgment and misconceptions, Will is not afraid to share his struggles. In fact, he is more than ready. He challenges his audience to make the effort and turn their ideas into a reality.
“Just get out and start it,” he said. “You are never doing anything by keeping it in your head and planning it. … Make a mistake, pick yourself up and do it again.”
I Can’t Read is the legacy of those Will loves—one that he hopes to leave behind to make the world a little better than when he found it. He advises his readers do the same.
“Go and impact others. You never know how big of a difference you could make in someone’s life, in the briefest encounter,” he writes. “Let’s replace the illiteracy epidemic with a reading epidemic. That’s not a bad legacy to leave.”
I Can’t Read: A Guide to Success Through Failure by William Manzanares IV is available now.