Jewel was the latest performer to participate in Lithub’s video performance series benefiting Mighty Writers, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that teaches reading and writing to thousands of low-income and marginalized students every year.
Between performances of hits like “Who Will Save Your Soul” and a brand-new track, Jewel discussed her own experiences with poverty, homelessness, and learning to read and write while battling undiagnosed dyslexia and anxiety.
“I never thought I’d become a writer, I never thought I’d do this for a living,” she said. “I had a very difficult time learning to read when I was young — I was undiagnosed with dyslexia. And I moved around a lot, I think we had a different school almost every year. And… that’s hard, right? Moving around, new kids all the time. The dyslexia thing was really hard: I had no idea I was smart, I had no idea… It was all just hard; school was hard, math was really hard.”
She continued: “I ended up having a really amazing teacher — well, a couple — and I ended up being really inspired in eighth grade because there was a philosophy program and I loved the information so much that I finally just buckled down and just tried to figure out how to get myself to read better. I used an Exacto knife and I cut a little teeny line out, just the width of a sentence, and I would lay that over a page in the book, and all I could see was one sentence at a time, and I would just move it down. That really helped me clear up my vision, because my eyes saw all the white on the page instead of the black.”
She ended up leading a symposium for high school teachers on how to teach students with dyslexia, she said, and her experience eventually convinced her to write songs like “Who Will Save Your Soul.”