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Gov. Gavin Newsom, who struggled with dyslexia, is writing a children’s book about it

Gavin Newsom
Gov. Gavin Newsom gets a high-five from his son, Hunter, after casting his ballot in the 2018 primary election with his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and children Brooklynn, Montana and Dutch.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Gov. Gavin Newsom is writing a book for children with dyslexia, a project motivated by his personal struggles with the learning disability and experience helping his own dyslexic child to learn to read.

“When you’re struggling with your child to read and they’re struggling, and their self-esteem, and they get to an age where they start comparing themselves to their peers, it is deeply emotional and very challenging,” Newsom told reporters Thursday. “That was a trigger to me. If there’s not something, do it.”

The 51-year-old Democrat said he’s had a hard time as a parent and someone with dyslexia to find books that his child can connect to in an empowering way. He made a few calls and was shocked by the response, he said.

Newsom discussed a book project with literary agent Elyse Cheney and Ann Godoff, editor in chief and founder of Penguin Press, at least twice this year.

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“So, it’s not 100% official, but it’s close,” said Newsom, who didn’t reveal any details about the story. “We’ve been working on it.”

There’s no word on whether Newsom will receive any payment for the book.

The California governor has been open about his experience with dyslexia, which he was diagnosed with in fifth grade and now affects at least one of his four children. Newsom told Times columnist George Skelton that he fell behind in school because his diagnosis came late. He said the recognition of his learning disability allowed him to “get support and self-confidence.”

Dyslexia is a disability that limits reading ability due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words, according to Mayo Clinic. It also affects areas of the brain that process language.

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Newsom’s personal journey motivated him to spend $100 million in the current budget on developmental and health screenings for infants and toddlers in low-income families.

The children’s book will mark Newsom’s first literary venture since he penned the 2013 book “Citizenville,” in which the then-lieutenant governor examined how digital tools alter citizen engagement with government.

It’s rare for a sitting governor to publish a book.

Sharon Davis, former first lady and wife of Gov. Gray Davis, appears to be the last person to write a children’s book from the governor’s office in 2002. Her story, “Adventures of Capitol Kitty,” is a fictional tale starring a famous feline who actually lived in the statehouse.


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