Megan Bernhard's Reviews > Building Wings: How I Made It Through School

Building Wings by Don Johnston
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Mar 18, 2012

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Building Wings: How I Made It Through School is a story about Don Johnston and his successful journey through school with a learning disability. To reach success he had to first face struggle. He had memorable teachers that both supported and hurt his academic growth. He faced bullies and disbelievers but he found the ways he learned best. Johnston teaches an important lesson that we all learn differently and that everyone needs to figure out how they learn. "Teachers may tell you that you have a learning problem. What they really mean is that you don't learn like most other students. You need to figure out how you do learn. And then you need to make sure it happens. Teachers can help you, but they can't make you successful. You have to do that for yourself."

Don Johnston is someone whose life is of interest to young readers because he tells his story about how he learns and became successful which is a common goal for many young readers. Johnston says, "I'll tell you what happened to me. My stories may sound different from your stories, but I bet that are really the same stories in many ways." Many young readers can identify with Don Johnston and some of the other characters in Building Wings. A reader who may be having trouble learning, is feeling different than others in school, is being bullied, or maybe is even bullying can all identify with characters in Building Wings and learn from their experiences. All of the information in Building Wings is accurate and authentic because the author is telling his own story. He writes in a way that is easy to read and engages the reader. Using large print and short sentences, he write in a way that a reader who learns similar to himself would be able to follow along and have the same experience reading the story as a more competent reader. In the story Don Johnston introduces many ways he found in school that help him learn best and this book provides the same support for young readers who may struggle with their own reading.

For me this story was a quick read but it was very influential. I was struck by how much meaning came through the simplicity of the writing and the impact of each word working together to tell the story. There are many parts of this story I took and related to my own learning and life experiences. A positive message I took from Building Wings is "Don't expect to wake up one morning and understand yourself completely. It will take time. But don't get down on yourself." Don Johnston is able to put into words many encouraging messages to inspire young readers that they too can succeed. I will use this story in the classroom to help students understand that they are all individuals and even though there is a lot going on in the classroom and some students are learning in different ways, we are all working together for success. This book will also be very useful in the classroom by using different ways in which Johnston learns. He introduces ways he learned best in school, some things I have not thought of, and this can be very helpful in finding appropriate learning strategies for students. Overall Building Wings reinforced what I am learning to become an effective teacher. Don Johnston introduces the impact his teachers had on him through school and what a difference an influential teacher can make.
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