Self-Taught Reader Patty Gillespie ’75, M’80, Published Book

Retired teacher Patty Gillespie recently published a book titled, A Successful Self-Taught Reader with Five Learning Disabilities: A guide for educators and parents. 

Gillespie enrolled at Westfield State before learning to read. By the end of the first semester, she was ready to drop out. But her father encouraged her to stick it out. 

At age 19, she taught herself to read, practicing for endless hours. She learned the vowels by using the pronunciation key in a dictionary and pictures instead of sounds. By graduation, she had overcome the odds by making the dean’s list. She returned to Westfield State to earn her master’s degree in education. While completing her master’s, she helped college students at the campus reading center. 

“After a bit of research by myself and others, I may be the first and only self-taught reader to ever publish a book about learning to read from personal experience,” said Gillespie. 

Since her book was published, she has been on a Texas radio interview and a podcast for the Learning Disabilities Association of America. She is also slated to write an article for the International Literacy Association’s winter issue, as its topic is learning disabilities.  

Before her retirement, Gillespie served as a reading specialist at Iowa’s Thomas Jefferson High School, where she taught freshmen through seniors who read at a pre-first to fifth grade reading level. Because of her efforts, she earned the Anne Hazard Richardson Reading is Fundamental Volunteer of the Year Award in 2011. She was also selected as the Reading Teacher of the Year by the Iowa Reading Association in 2012. 

Gillespie served as president and vice president of the Midlands of Iowa Reading Council and was a two-term zone director for the Iowa Reading Association. She has presented at local, state, regional, and international conferences. She was featured in Westfield State’s fall 2011 issue of Focus magazine (page 10).