For most of his life, Glenn Harrington had a secret. He couldn’t read.
It was a secret that never got in the way, though, just one that forced him to work harder and develop his own systems in order to succeed.
At 17, he enlisted in the Air Force in order to bypass the last six weeks of high school, admittedly knowing he wouldn’t be able to pass his finals. By working this “con,” as he called it, he was able to accomplish three important things.
First, by enlisting when he did during the Korean War, he was able to forgo the mandatory four years of reserve service that would have come after his four years of enlisted service. Second, by leaving high school with a 72 average in order to serve his country, Harrington’s principal awarded him his diploma.
But perhaps most importantly, in the Air Force, Harrington discovered a passion for teaching, and realized he was good at it. It was this experience, teaching other airmen about mechanics, that led him to two degrees in geology and a life of teaching.
But how could he teach without being able to read beyond a fourth-grade level?
That marvelous story is depicted in the 80-year-old Harrington’s book, “Two Lives in One: The Struggles and Triumphs of a Dyslexic Mensa.”
Harrington resides in Highlands Ranch with his wife, Melva, whom he met in high school in Baytown, Texas. He never understood what dyslexia was or that he had the condition until 10 years ago. It was four years ago that he learned he was something else too, a Mensa. Harrington is in the 99.6th percentile for intelligence.
“I developed my own system of learning,” he says. “I was using this elevated IQ that I didn’t know I had all these years. I could learn but I had to learn a different way.”
Harrington’s life includes years of teaching public school, at a junior college, and as a naturalist working for the National Park Service. Understanding that he was different — and that he had never received individualized attention or understanding growing up in the era he did — led him to utilize patience and make himself constantly available on or off theclock for his own students.
Learning he was dyslexic at the age of 70, and living a life without reading in a world of readers, has led him to another place, and one that is somewhat ironic. Harrington, despite having never having read a book cover to cover, is now an author.
“The purpose of the book is encouragement,” he said, “to encourage other people that are dyslexic that you can succeed and you can live a full life without reading. You can’t crawl off into a corner and feel sorry for yourself. If you have a problem, I don’t care if it is dyslexia or money or what, you have to embrace that problem.
“You will see miracles happen.”
Harrington’s book is available in paperback and for Kindle at www.amazon.com.