By Mike Bush
Granite City, Ill. (KSDK) - The biggest acts of courage can sometimes come from the smallest individuals.
Nine year old Lillian Harris is reading to her third grade class at Niedringhaus school in Granite City.
"I think it's very brave of Lillian, " says her teacher Mary Voss.
Until recently, if Lillian had to speak in school she took two things with her, alarm and dread.
Her struggles began as early as the first grade. 15 minutes of homework on something like spelling could take two hours.
"And we went through one spelling word ten times and she never saw the letters correctly each time, " explains her mom Nicole Harris.
An evaluation and a battery of tests revealed that Lillian had dyslexia.
Dyslexia is a learning disability that affects millions. Children with the disorder have normal intelligence but they have difficulty identifying words and sometimes sounds.
"So we started explaining that she sees things a little differently and some of those struggles that she's going through, it's not necessarily bad but it's different, " notes her dad Don Harris.
Despite her issues, Lillian loves school. In fact, she turned her bedroom into a classroom and often makes believe that she is a teacher.
"We felt like she was empowered when she did that, " says her dad.
Also empowering, was Lillian's decision to write a story for the Madison County Young Authors Conference, a county-wide writing competition. The name of the story-"Dogs for Dyslexia."
"She wanted to write a book about school and she also wanted to write a book about a dog because her Aunt Sarah has a therapy dog, "explained her mom.
The story tells the tale of a young girl with dyslexia and how her amazing dog Daisy helps her get through the school day. With help from mom and dad, illustrations help to show how letters can be so slippery.
"Dogs for Dyslexia" was the story Lillian was reading for the class but now it's more than just a story. It's an actual book.
Lillian's parents were so inspired by her accomplishment, they self-published in the hopes the book might teach others about dyslexia. And the reviews are in. Lillian's message is getting through loud and clear.
"Even though there is something wrong with you. You can do something no matter what, " says 9 year old Austin Bartlett.
"That you can do anything, " added 9 year old Shannon Roustio. "Even if you have dyslexia you can do anything you want to do."
"Dogs for Dyslexia" should be available soon at some local bookstores and places like the Children's Dyslexia Center in Belleville. But her first book signing was for her third grade classmates.
"They are so proud of her, "says Ms. Voss. "They are ecstatic about her book."
Lillian says she likes writing books but "I really want to become a teacher."
Writers often write the things they are afraid to say out loud. Lillian can now do both.
"We're so glad that she kind of became her best advocate for herself, " said her dad.