Success through struggle

Center Grove’s Keith Fechtman shares his journey with dyslexia through newly-published children’s book, Malina’s Zoo Adventure

Keith Fechtman.

It’s okay for children to struggle with reading, writing or math. With extra time and patience, they can achieve high school graduation, higher education or any of their dreams.

Center Grove area resident Keith Fechtman wrote the children’s book, Malina’s Zoo adventures nine years ago to share his own struggles of mixing up words and numbers with others. It wasn’t until a year ago that he realized that his difficulty reading was actually dyslexia. This year, he found the motivation and resources to finally get his book published and become an advocate for the cause.

Fechtman grew up in Franklin, where he ran track at Franklin Community High School. Upon graduation, he attended the University of Indianapolis.

“I struggled immensely through that,” he said. “I didn’t know why. High school wasn’t easy but it wasn’t super difficult.”

He left UIndy and went into the military. After his four years active duty in the Army, he joined the Reserves and sought out something to better himself. He re-enrolled at UIndy, earning his bachelor’s degree. When he went to enroll in the master’s program, he initially failed the entrance test.

“I struggled with the schooling aspect,” he said. That’s why I wrote this children’s book. I wanted to share my struggles with schooling, reading, writing and really help kids. If they have a disability, difficulty, I want to help relate to them that it’s okay to struggle. You can overcome it. I was able to finish the master’s program in two-and-a-half years versus three. But it was a lot of grind, working full time and going back to school. I had to take extra notes. I had to be thorough because I didn’t understand them the first time. I rarely got it the second time. I had to reread a lot. It’s a different challenge.”

After earning his master’s degree, he began working for Arby’s as a district manager. Wanting a better work/life balance, he found an opportunity at Express Employment Professionals Indy South where he has worked the past year.

The elephant page is one of Keith Fechtman’s favorites, with its play on words.

A year ago, when he realized that his struggles with reading and mixing up numbers was dyslexia, he began to research the disorder.

“Right now they say there’s three million people that struggle with dyslexia in the U.S.,” he said. “I think I’ve trained myself to go back and reread things. I have to think about words. It’s figuring out the tricks or steps to spell words correctly and in the right way, or take reading portions of a book knowing that you can only handle certain sections at a time.”

He also began working on Malina’s Zoo Adventure. He found an illustrator, Center Grove alumnus, Eric Erickson. The book was published by Author House in May, and can be found on amazon.com or authorhouse.com. Fechtman said he has read it to any child he can. He and his family – wife, Sarah and children, Peyton and Paisley – visit the White River Branch library at least once a week. He has lined up speaking engagements through the year, including a reading and book signing on July 15 at Toodleydoo Toys in Franklin; a painting of the book at Teal Canary in Greenwood on July 22; and a reading along with the illustrator on Oct. 6.

“If parents struggled through schooling and reading, they can use it as a tool to help with their own children and create more family time,” he said. “We’ve gotten a way from reading to our children. I’d like to bring some of that back through this. I remember my mother and I would read all of the time. She really worked with me. I owe about everything to her.”

Fechtman wants to create a series of books, and has already written the sequel, Malina’s Farm Adventure with a goal to get it released by Christmas. He said a portion of the books’ proceeds will go to the Dyslexia Institute of Indiana for a scholarship fund.

Meet the author:

July 15, 10 a.m. – noon

What: See the Johnson County Fair Parade, then stop in for this book reading and signing.

Where: Toodleydoo Toys, 1 W. Jefferson St., Franklin.

Info: facebook.com/malinasadventures

July 22, 2 – 4 p.m.

What: Adventures in Painting. Meet the author, receive a personally signed book, paint an 8×10 canvas of an animal in the book, and animal treats for the kids!

Where: Teal Canary, 199 N. Madison Ave., Greenwood.

Cost: $25

Info: tealcanary.com/calendar.html

Oct. 6, 4:30 – 6 p.m.

What: Meet the author and illustrator during this readying and book signing

Where: Franklin Branch library, 401 State St., Franklin.

Info: facebook.com/malinasadventures