Author: Nelson Lauver

Publisher: Five City Media

ISBN: 978-0-9830403-09

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Nelson Lauver is known to radio listeners in the USA as the “Rockwell of Radio” for his four- minute slice of the American experience with his The American Storyteller programs that are broadcast over the radio and the Internet. Lauver is also a writer, speaker, humorist, and an award-winning narrator. And after reading Most Unlikely To Succeed, I would like to add another title, a marvelous raconteur with a strong appealing narrative voice.

However, what makes Lauver even more exceptional is that he grew up with a learning disability- he is dyslexic. Only in his late twenties, due to a chance meeting with a total stranger, that he learned he was dyslexic, a term he never heard before and had no idea what was dyslexia.

In Most Unlikely to Succeed, Lauver has published a courageous memoir detailing his school years from kindergarten through high-school in the tiny village of McAlisterville, Pennsylvania. Curiously enough, he did manage to receive his high-school diploma, even though he never learned to read or write. However, his school days were not exactly a bowl of cherries. In order not to be called a “dumb kid,” he refused to participate in class for this meant laughter and humiliation at his expense, particularly when he would have to read out loud. As a result, Lauver decided to take on the persona of the “bad kid,” and this led to many episodes of being brutalized by some sadistic teachers. Teachers, who today would be criminally prosecuted for their irrational and mean-spirited behavior.

Fortunately, what served Lauver well when he did graduate high-school, was that he loved to observe the locals of his town and listen to their stories. As he states: “ I was fascinated by people and what prompted them to say and do the things they did. I wanted to understand their motivations. I gathered copious mental notes and tucked them away in my brain.” Incidentally, when asked by his first-grade teacher what he wanted to be when he grew up, he replied, a lawyer or broadcaster.

When Lauver was in the sixth grade, his teacher realized that something was amiss with him when he was able to succeed very well in an oral examination but couldn't do the same in its written counterpart. Unfortunately, the teacher didn't have anyone to turn to, to aid in helping him. His parents were of little help and his educators, for the most part, were incompetent fools who had no idea what a learning disability was all about. And there was no help from the school administrators who preferred to save money rather than investing in a program that would help students such as Lauver. Moreover, and this was in the early 70s, when he was sent to the Geisinger Medical Center for assessment, he was described as a “healthy eleven-year-old boy who, based on school report cards, was well below average in intelligence and seriously lacking motivation. “ This was the same kind of description some of his moronic teachers pinned on him. However, what is more mind boggling, and as he states, “not once did any of those towering intellectuals even consider exploring the possibility that I might have dyslexia “ So much for the “experts.” Lauver felt that what was happening in class was unjust and wrong, however, he would rationalize that the teachers were adults and he was only a kid. Consequently, if the kids didn't do what the adults wanted them to do, they would be smacked around-it was a fact of life of many living in Juniata County.

After graduating from high-school Lauver was faced with quite a dilemma, he had to go into the world and make his way as a functionally illiterate adult and he wondered what would become of him faced with this disability.

There is no doubt that Most Unlikely to Succeed should raise the profile concerning not only dyslexia, but also all other learning liabilities. I am sure that many of us can easily relate to Lauver's story. We can probably recall the kids in our classes that had great difficulty in reading and writing and were mislabeled as lazy, dumb or stupid. Perhaps, they didn't endure the physical punishment that Lauver experienced, but they did nonetheless suffer damning psychological abuse with far-reaching consequences. 

This is a book that will have readers crying in sympathy, perplexed by the inaction of those that should have known better, and even laughing out loud at some of Lauver's antics, though deep down they were not so amusing but rather of a boy that was crying out for help- to be heard, to be understood, and to make his way in the world. Well -written and well- paced, Lauver candidly exposes himself for all to see. This requires a great deal of guts, and I commend him for having taken the plunge. Let us hope the book serves as a wake-up call and a motivation to those who had similar experiences as Lauver.

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