Summer reading: Eye Can Write

In our second Summer Read, we’re looking at Eye Can Write by Jonathan Bryan, a 12-year-old who has severe cerebral palsy and was locked-in for many years.

Jonathan Bryan and I can write
Jonathan and Eye Can Write have featured on the BBC and This Morning and there is little wonder why. Until the age of nine, Jonathan was aware of the outside world but unable to communicate with it. Now he has written a book telling his story in first person. Jonathan explains how he tried different spelling boards and the book covers the moment when his mum Chantal and home school teacher Sarah realise he’s communicating and responding to their questions – the reader is entranced. Jonathan’s communication skills improve quickly – and the book covers the development of his charity Teach Us Too, which promotes the right for all children to be taught to read and write, whatever their label or diagnosis. Jonathan’s synopsis explains: “Can you imagine not being able to speak or communicate? The silence, the loneliness, the pain. Inside you disappear to magical places, but most of the time remain imprisoned within the isolation. Waiting, longing, hoping. Until someone realises your potential and discovers your key, so your unlocking can begin. Now you are free, flying like a wild bird in the open sky. A voice for the voiceless. This is me, and this is my story.”

Jonathan’s story

The book starts with Chantal (mum) giving her account of pregnancy and the car accident they had at eight months pregnant. She recounts Jonathan’s emergency birth and immediate days after, then the early months of Jonathan’s life are explained as life alternates between home and hospital and the struggles involved. Eye Can Write then moves to Jonathan’s story. He recounts his time between his special school, home education and mainstream school. He shares his personal thoughts on teaching methods and explains why he has started his campaign Teach me too. As Jonathan progresses, he excels in school tests and in IQ, and his campaigning takes off with resulting media coverage including a CBBC documentary. The emotional issue of progressing a campaign when Jonathan has a limited life expectancy is covered and it’s interesting to read Jonathan’s thoughts on this. A magical part of the book is Jonathan meeting his inspiration author Michael Morpugo – this brings home how far Jonathan has come in a few years and his determination with his cause and writing. But famous authors aside, it’s the relationships with friends and family that really resonate. Getting to know Jonathan’s sisters, first friend Will at his special school and classmates at his local primary feels a real privilege. An incredible, powerful memoir. This review is part of our Summer Reading series – Looking at the stars and Tell me the planets were also reviewed. 
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