Books for dyslexia

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The BookTrust’s Diana Gerald on sharing books and stories, and the benefits at different stages for a child with dyslexic child.

An enjoyment of books and stories can be one of the most powerful gifts that can unlock a child’s full potential. Reading brings benefits for all children, including those with dyslexia—benefits which go far beyond literacy and educational attainment. We believe it’s important to nurture an environment where children’s relationship with books and stories is rewarding and fun. Through our work with SEN practitioners, we understand that children with dyslexia each have their own unique journey with reading. By finding ways to support and inspire children to enjoy books and stories early on, we find they are more likely to enjoy reading in their daily lives as they grow up. 

Witnessing a child’s ability to listen to, learn and recite nursery rhymes is a well known way to illuminate potential speech and language problems. Therefore, encouraging families to start sharing books and stories from a young age can be an essential way to detect any challenges their children may experience early on. Books aimed at young children provide multiple and different opportunities to sound out words and rhyme together, encouraging a playful approach to language development. 

Sharing stories interactively, whether that’s talking about illustrations in a book or reciting the words and rhymes out loud, even before children are of reading age, is not only vital for their early linguistic development and bonding, but can provide approachable opportunities to observe and screen for possible signs of speech and language difficulties.

SEN practitioners know how challenging it can be for children with dyslexia to feel positive about books when they may be experiencing feelings of frustration, stress, fatigue or shame while interpreting the words on a page. Finding ways to enable that child to still find joy and excitement through books and stories must be a gentle and gradual process if we are to transform their relationship with reading.

Not all children with dyslexia respond to the same approach. We find the very act of choosing the book they read from a bookshelf can go a long way in maintaining children’s enthusiasm. Having a wide variety of appropriate books to choose from is therefore essential, whether at home, in school, or in the local library. Children start to learn and understand what it is that they like and enjoy about different kinds of books so encourage them to explore different genres—be it non-fiction, comics, short stories, poetry, or something else entirely. Many children with dyslexia find graphic novels or non-fiction books more straightforward to follow for example as the text is more likely to be broken down into manageable chunks.

Appealing to a child’s own particular interests through books and stories can also be a good way in. If a child loves football, they might be intrigued by a non-fiction book about the sport. If they love music, perhaps a book with a protagonist who plays a musical instrument will feel more appealing to them. If they have a great sense of humour, perhaps they could be encouraged to read from a joke book to a friend. 

Incorporating reading into the fabric of their day, through different mediums and at different times of day can slowly help improve how they feel about reading. We also encourage families to continue shared reading together with their children, even when children start to learn to read independently. 

Dyslexia-friendly reads for all ages
We have identified examples of best practice in the physical book that can make them more accessible for children with dyslexia working together with the SENCos, publishers, teachers and librarians who help us design BookTrust programmes. Look for details such as books using a sans-serif typeface, tinted paper and those where text is aligned to just one margin (rather than justified text) as this can help reduce the visual stress some readers may experience when confronted with the words on a page.

We also recognise the importance of children being able to see themselves and wider society represented in the books they read. We have a range of booklists showcasing books that, as well as being dyslexia-friendly reads for children of different ages, have compelling plots, concepts and characters with dyslexia that we know children have enjoyed. We hope these can be a useful resource for SEN practitioners and to share with families who are working to support their child’s ongoing journey with books and stories.

Diana Gerald
Author: Diana Gerald

Diana Gerald
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Diana Gerald is the CEO of BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity that aims to get every child reading because reading positively impacts on children’s wellbeing, learning and creativity.

Website: www.booktrust.org.uk
Twitter: @Booktrust
Facebook: @Booktrust
Instagram: @Booktrust

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