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How Peppermint Patty Inspired Me as a Person With Learning Disabilities

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It took my parents a long time to teach me how to read. This was a long time before we knew there was anything “wrong” with me. I was just a slow bloomer back then. My parents were so patient with me. I can remember them sitting with me with a book and helping me sound out words. I was slow at learning, and it worried them. The thing that finally clicked for me was Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” comics. They were simple enough that I could read them on my own, and I really liked them. My parents were thrilled. They didn’t care that I was reading comics. They were just happy I was finally reading something on my own and getting enjoyment from it.

“Peanuts” was the start of a love affair with books for me. I can’t remember who introduced me to them or when I started reading them. I just know they were the first thing I started reading on my own. I liked that the words were big and easy to read, and the pages weren’t filled with too much stuff for me to take in at once. Heck, some of the pages had just pictures and no words at all. It was an easy introduction to literature for me. I hated “big kid” books that were packed with words. I found those books exhausting. “Peanuts” was perfect for me. It was simple and it was on my level. I also really connected with the characters. I could sympathize with a lot of the things they were going through.

My favorite character was Peppermint Patty. The first thing that drew me to her was how much we looked alike. We both had brown hair and freckles. It was easy for me to imagine myself as her. I liked how she was very much into sports and women’s rights and feminism. You could say she was one of my first female role models.

I loved how confident Patty was around her friends. She wasn’t afraid to stand up and start an argument about women’s rights, or tackle Charlie Brown to the ground and ask if he wanted to play a round of football. I liked how she wasn’t traditionally pretty, wore flip flops and shorts and a t-shirt, and had messy, uncontrollable hair. To me Patty is a good example of a well-written “strong” female character. She embraces traditionally “boy” things like sports, but doesn’t reject her feminine side either. She harbors a huge crush on Charlie Brown and sometimes questions her attractiveness.

The biggest thing I liked about Patty was how poorly she did in the classroom. I really sympathized with academic struggles, because I knew how it felt to be the kid in class who had no idea what was going on. I don’t know if Charles Schulz meant to write her as someone who was learning disabled. She always seemed like she was to me, and as a kid who had learning problems, it was great to be able to read about someone who was having the same struggles as me.

Patty tried her best in class, but was never able to focus enough in her lessons. She got failing grade after failing grade and it bummed her out, but it never really put a huge dent in her confidence and self-esteem. Patty knew she wasn’t good academically, but she didn’t let it get her down. She knew she had other strengths. She was a good friend, good at sports and passionate about women’s rights.

Peppermint Patty taught me that academic success isn’t the only thing in this world that matters. It’s OK if you fail that test. It’s just a test. The important thing is that you tried. Patty never lets her failures stop her from having another go at getting the right answer.

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Originally published: December 4, 2016
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