Nothing is created on the first try. Asking yourself how many revisions will it take to create this, is vital for success. The amount of times we had to alter an image or change the text in our book was uncountable. At times, it was really frustrating, but in the end, it was worth it. I am super proud of what we produced and grateful for what I have learned so far along the way.
As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Greenberg, the co-author and illustrator of The Creative Cab Company’s first book, Robby the Dyslexic Taxi And the Airport Adventure.
Born with dyslexia, Jonathan Greenberg could not read and write like many other children his age. So, instead of giving in to frustration, Jonathan used his struggle as a catalyst for creativity, expressing his ideas through art. Having overcome his learning difficulty, Jonathan has fallen in love with reading. Robby the Dyslexic Taxi And the Airport Adventure exemplifies Jonathan’s passion for writing and illustration. Together with Lynn, his mother, and writing partner, they are already thinking of other stories featuring neurodiverse characters that complement this book.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
Hi, I’m so happy to be here! I grew up in a family with two older brothers, an older sister, and my parents. As I got older, I found that I had trouble reading and writing. My teachers thought that I was just a slow learner, however, my mom and dad felt that something was off. With the support of my family, I had some educational testing conducted, and we found out that I was dyslexic. I was enrolled in a school that specialized in teaching those with dyslexia and language-based learning difficulties, and quickly, I was reading and writing with the best of them!
Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you growing up? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Before I could read, I constantly stared at the cover of the children’s edition of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. The cover had a visual of a submarine being latched onto by a giant squid. I felt the urge to know what was happening in those pages. When I finally could read, it was one of the first books I picked up, and it was the most euphoric feeling I have ever had.
How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I truly believe that you don’t have to do something major to make a difference. Something as simple as going out of your way to help someone, working with the less fortunate in your community, or simply saying thank you when someone holds the door for you, can impact someone’s life. I always remember that what seems like a small gesture to me can be quite big for someone else. For my mother and I, this book and the series we hope to create, will encourage readers to embrace their own differences and those of others, while also learning the values of kindness and determination. There are not a lot of books where the main character is neurodivergent AND is seen as the hero or heroine.
Ok super. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
One of the reasons I wanted to sit down and write Robby the Dyslexic Taxi And the Airport Adventure was because I wanted to create a story that was not only entertaining but taught the readers that even though some people may struggle with dyslexia, the fact is they are truly amazing, intelligent, and capable. It is very important to have conversations about creating more awareness among those who see life differently, as it affects all different types of people. The success of our book has inspired my mother and me to write more books featuring other neurodivergent individuals as the main characters.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
As I mentioned, I grew up with dyslexia and understand how much effort is needed to overcome this learning difference. Once I was able to call myself remediated, I wanted to help others who might be struggling and let them know that with the right education and support, dyslexics can be extremely successful. Writing this book provided me with the perfect opportunity to do just this.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest them. We don’t always get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
When I was very young, I realized that the best and, frankly, only way for me to express myself was through art. Since then, my passion has been art, and it was clear to me that my life’s journey would be full of this form of self-expression,with a career focusing on Art.
Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
I would say the most important thing would be that you have patience and be prepared to make mistakes. It will be a slow process with many bumps along the way, but if you can accept that, you can get anything to work, no question. I would also suggest that you surround yourself with people that you trust to help you on your journey.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
I mentioned previously that as a child, I went to a school, The Windward School, that specializes in educating students with Dyslexia. Had it not been for Windward, I would not be the reader or person I am today. Anyway, after the publication of Robby the Dyslexic Taxi And the Airport Adventure , I had the opportunity to return to Windward and read our book to a group of current students. It was really amazing to be back, not only for myself but also for the current students. They knew that I was once in their shoes, and now, not only reading a book to them, but reading my book, one that I co-authored and illustrated. They did make me feel like a rock star, asking me for my autograph and telling me how much they loved the book. The whole experience will stay with me forever!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
As you know, artwork can be created with various different materials, different papers, paints, crayons, etc. One night, I was exhausted but pushing myself to get my work done. Thirty minutes into my work, I realized I was drawing on the wrong kind of paper, so all that work had to be thrown away. While extremely frustrating, it taught me that pushing when you are too tired is never the answer. Sometimes, taking a break is more efficient than rushing.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
My mom has always been my number one cheerleader, along with my entire family and friends. My mom, as you know, became my partner and co-author and is equally responsible for the creation of this book. That being said, my entire circle was incredibly supportive and was amazing in every way, cheering us on from start to finish.
Without saying specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I hope it’s OK, but I will flip this question and tell you about a particular individual who helped and impacted our cause. While we are so proud of Robby the Dyslexic Taxi And the Airport Adventure , we were actually on the fence about following through and writing it. A family member actually pushed us to give this project a shot. “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” they asked, letting us know that we would regret it if we didn’t. That was exactly what we needed to hear. I am very grateful for that advice and counsel.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Dyslexia and all learning differences aren’t things that can be fixed quickly. Learning to live through a different lens takes realization, time, and effort. It won’t be easy or cheap, but if you give a person the right support, emotionally and through tangible tools for learning, anything can be accomplished and the most amazing things created.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of the interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why?
- Nothing is created on the first try. Asking yourself how many revisions will it take to create this, is vital for success. The amount of times we had to alter an image or change the text in our book was uncountable. At times, it was really frustrating, but in the end, it was worth it. I am super proud of what we produced and grateful for what I have learned so far along the way.
- We are in it for the long haul. This project has taken a year and a half to come to fruition. It’s true that that’s partially because we were first-time authors, and the process was new to us, but putting that aside, it was still a very time-consuming endeavor, but again, well worth it.
- Be prepared to be frustrated. There will be plenty of times that you’ll want to put down your tool and leave whatever you’re working on right there. It’s easy to fall into temptation, but if you can be strong enough to keep going, you can create some amazing things. Writing and publishing this book had many twists and turns, and seeing the smiles on kids’ faces changed everything.
- This is bigger than just you. Robby the Dyslexic Taxi explores the unique strengths and abilities of a dyslexic character, fostering understanding and appreciation for neurodiversity. We really tried to use the power of storytelling to capture young readers’ imaginations and open their hearts to new perspectives.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do when you’re struggling is to seek help from someone else. I am confident that if we hadn’t asked for help, we would have struggled and possibly been unable to complete the book. It is only because we received assistance from experts that we managed to get it done. I am so proud of the team we have assembled and excited about our next book.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
There are so many reasons why young people should get involved. We are very lucky that we live in a society where if we aren’t happy with something, we have the opportunity to try to change the narrative and advocate for change.
If there is something you are passionate about, volunteer at a local organization or start your own charity. As a child, our minds were programmed to want for ourselves, yet as an adult, I have learned that it is more fulfilling to do for others and have a positive impact on society is something that you are passionate about, volunteer your time, or start a charity.
Lastly, if you don’t have time to volunteer or dedicate time to a cause, the smaller things count. Open the door for someone. Say good morning to a stranger. Ask a waiter their name. These small gestures can go a long way in making the world a better place to live.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
The one person in this world that I would love to meet would be Henry Winkler, aka The Fonz. As you may or may not know, he, too, is dyslexic. However, when he was growing up, little was known about the disability, and he was undiagnosed until the age of 31. Fast forward, he has had an amazing career as an actor, author, and dyslexia advocate. He has always been a huge role model for me.
How can our readers follow you online?
Well, my website, https://www.creationairearts.com/ has examples of all of my work. To learn more about Robby The Dyslexic Taxi, visit robbythetaxi.com or follow us at Creative Cab Co on Instagram or Facebook. From there, you can find links to all my other forms of social media!
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Thank you so much again for having me it was a pleasure!
Young Change Makers: Why and How Jonathan Greenberg Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.