What began as a pep talk turned into an inspiring book with the message that learning disabilities is just a bump in the road and amazing things can still be achieved.
One night, two years ago, ten-year-old Mila Smith wrote a list of all the talents she possesses after feeling frustrated about her struggle with dyslexia. After creating the list, it cheered Mila up, and she wanted to provide that inspiration for other children with learning disabilities.
Mila’s book – This is Mila – illustrates all the traits besides being dyslexic that make her special and unique. In the book, she is an artist, a fashionista, a skateboarder, and a baker who has great friends and a family who loves her. The self-published book presold close to 200 copies and was launched last Saturday at Caboodle Gifts in Maraval where it is currently on sale.
Mila chose the title – This is Mila – because she wants children reading her book to turn it into a book about themselves.
“I want kids when reading this book to turn it into a book for themselves – it could be This is Jack, or This is Jane – and then they can think about all the things that make them special. It has my name, but it can be about anyone,” she told Newsday Kids.
This is Mila has 19 pages, with a font specifically designed for children with dyslexia to read. Throughout the book, Mila used her artistic skills to colour and paint the illustrations that her aunt Shannon Kenny, who is a visual artist, created.
Mila’s mother, Lindsay Smith, first noticed Mila’s challenges while helping her with homework when she first started primary school at Dunross Preparatory in Diego Martin. Mila struggled with letter formation and she took longer than the allotted time to complete an assignment. Because dyslexia isn’t diagnosed until age seven, Lindsay thought these were the usual challenges that all children Mila’s age experience as they’re learning to read and write.
As Mila continued to grow, there was no change and she began to struggle more and fall behind her peers. She then had two assessments done and it was determined that she was dyslexic. The following year, Lindsay decided to let Mila repeat a grade, which was beneficial for her.
“It was the best thing I could have done for her, as her confidence just grew when she was able to repeat the work she had done already and she was then able to focus.”
Before her diagnosis, Mila felt very frustrated that she couldn’t keep up with her peers and had to read something multiple times to understand.
“When I found out I was dyslexic, I felt a little better. My mom told me it wasn’t my fault, that it was something in my brain making it happen.”
Nowadays, although Mila still has challenges, she is equipped with supportive teachers and a learning aide who helps her after school.
In the future, Mila wants to own a bakery with attractions like a skate park and an art studio. She is well on her way, as she already has her own baking business, called Mila’s Munchables – she specialises in cupcakes.
But, she says, “Art is one of my favourite activities. I’m really happy with how the book turned out.”