QUINCY -- Quincy High School senior Myla Egbers loves to read, but it wasn't always that way.
In the fourth grade, the soon-to-be high school graduate realized she was not able to read at the same pace as her peers or even students in the grade-level beneath her.
"I saw friends who were younger than me, and they were reading chapter books," Egbers said. "I couldn't do that. I was reading really simple books."
Sonna Egbers said that while her daughter's fellow fourth graders were reading chapter books, her daughter was assigned to read the equivalent of modern day "Dick and Jane" books, which featured simple sentence structure.
"We found out after that Myla was dyslexic," Sonna said. "She always wanted to read, but it was a big, big struggle for her."
Dyslexia is defined by researchers at the Mayo Clinic as being a learning disorder that involves "difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how to relate to letters and words. Dyslexia affects areas of the brain that processes language."
The International Dyslexia Association reports that 15 to 20 percent of the world's population have symptoms of dyslexia, which includes symptoms of slow or inaccurate reading, weak spelling and poor writing.
Wanting to ease her daughter's struggle and hoping to better understand what was happening within her daughter's mind as she attempted to read books, Sonna said she went to the Quincy Public Library looking for information.
"I came here to see if they had any easy reading books, but books that were geared toward a more mature reader," Sonna said. She added that by the time Myla had been diagnosed with dyslexia, her interest in simple sentence structure books had waned.
Once at the library, Sonna said she struck up a conversation with a reference librarian.
"She asked me if I had ever considered graphic novels," Sonna said. "I admit I was a bit of a book snob back then and didn't think my daughter would be interested in graphic novels, which I thought were nothing more than comic books."
Myla said she remembers well the first time her mother broached the subject of graphic novels with her.
"I was unsure, but then once I saw that it was not all Spider-Man books, that changed," Myla said. "Because what little girl wants to read books about Spider-Man when you have books about real women. Those books were so much better."
According to researchers at Yale University, graphic novels offers readers with dyslexia several different cues to the story.
"If a reader gets snagged on a vocabulary word or the storyline of a graphic novel, then illustrated pages offer contextual cues to help decipher the meaning," Kyle Redford wrote in a report for the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity.
Sonna said she knows firsthand how the graphic novels have allowed her daughter to develop her own love of reading.
"Graphic novels remove the narrative that is in so many books and focuses in on the dialogue," Sonna said. "She always has a book from here with her."
According to statistics from the library, the Quincy Public Library has 2,172 graphic novels in their collection of 783,112 of physical materials.
Sonna said her daughter began by reading books popular with her age group but then began exploring works of classic literature such as "Moby Dick," "A Tale of Two Cities," "Oliver Twist" and "The Scarlet Letter."
Myla explains her attraction to the classics as her desire to explore history.
"It has to do with the history, but also because classics are more than just a damsel in distress or fairy tales," Myla said. "They are classics because they deal with real life situations, with people you can relate to, and the words in those books have more feeling than anything in modern literature."
Her current book of choice is famed author Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird."
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Stories of Quincyans such as Myla, who are discovering a love of reading, are as plentiful as the books that line the shelves of Quincy Public Library according to board trustee Chris Pratt, who counts his own story among the library's success stories.
"I grew up here," Pratt said. "I have five siblings. We were here regularly. We weren't a family that had a lot of anything, but the library gave us an opportunity to get here and to read hundreds, if not thousands, of books. The library was a huge part of my childhood, and the opportunities that gave us were opportunities we would not have had otherwise."
Now an attorney in Quincy, Pratt said he and his family believe it is their obligation to advocate for the library and to help the library raise funds through private and public partnerships.
"To me it is imperative that we find a way to support this library because to me it is an essential service," Pratt said. "It levels the playing field for everyone, rich or poor, and provides an access to point to any information that you would want. I would hate to see those same opportunities I had as a child to not be there for the next family of six kids or to the next middle class family."
Families include those like the Egbers, who have participated in multiple library programs over the years.
In October, Sonna was one of a dozen aspiring writers who participated in a National Novel Writing Month workshop sponsored by the public library. Other writers included a woman who was working on publishing her father's memoirs, and another was working on a historical romance.
"A lot of people say they want to write a book, and I was definitely one of those people," Sonna said. "It is only through the library that I finally put my words into action and began writing my first novel."
The self-described lover of science fiction and romance genre books is in the final stages of writing her novel now.
Sonna's son, Garin, 20, participated in the Teen Advisory Board at the Quincy Public Library when he was a high school student.
"I think Garin would tell you that he had difficulty making friends with people of the same age," Sonna said of her son, who was not available for comment for this story. "Once he came here, he began to open up because the adults here were so good with him. Today he is outgoing. Today he feels a sense of belonging to this community. Today he is a better person because of the library."