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Unless you are a National Geographic junkie, you may not have heard of Ann Bancroft. In 1986, she journeyed by dogsled 1000 miles from northern Canada to the North Pole, becoming the first woman to do so. She followed up this feat by later making history in South Pole, reaching it on skis followed by an all-woman expedition team.

And Bancroft has dyslexia.

She grew up in Minnesota, and always loved spending time outdoors. In school, she struggled with reading problems, and her favorite classes were ones that involved physical activity. “For someone who was struggling in school,” she says, “the natural world was a perfect place to feel at home and express myself.”

Her parents moved the family to Kenya when she was in elementary school, and Bancroft describes that adventure as a formative time in her life. Upon returning to the US, she fell behind in school and was diagnosed with dyslexia. She struggled to graduate from high school, eventually managing to do so after switching schools. She then trained as a wilderness instructor and gym teacher and spent a few years teaching, including providing support for learning difficulties in children.

Her love for the outdoors combined with a naturally adventurous spirit led her to join a North Pole expedition in 1986, in which she set her first world record. The South Pole expedition was completed in 1993. In 2001, she joined a Norwegian female adventurer in a skiing expedition across Antarctica – setting a third world record.

She currently runs an exploration company and continues to trek around the world on adventure expeditions.


Sarah Forrest is a Program Coach for the Easyread System, an online phonics course specifically developed for children with highly visual learning styles, dyslexia and auditory processing disorders. Find out more about Easyread’s mission to end illiteracy at