Organisation & Time Management: Most Dyslexics’ Second/Third Nightmare!

At a recent Dyslexia Scotland Adult Network (Stirling) Meeting, we were discussing how difficult it is to organise our lives and homes on top of jobs, studying and/or family life.

These problems are by no means limited to us dyslexics (but our non-linear [often nonverbal] brains don’t help matters). I have also recently joined some local stitching clubs, and it was a friend in one of these that gave me the following idea. She said that she rewards herself monetarily for the tasks she does each day.

I thought this was a great idea and started using her idea. I reward myself 1p for things like every page I read, every 30mins I walk, every item I iron, and every item I put away in a drawer or hang up (I used to have huge piles of clothes everywhere because I thought, I’d forget anything I couldn’t see).

The following is a photo of how I keep a record of what I have done each day:


I have found this can be a good way to plan out a day. Without having to time everything out (which is something I cannot do, I don’t seem to know how long things will/should take me to do). I have found if I am having trouble starting in the morning: I get the pad out and write out a table, listing the tasks I have been putting off or I know need doing. And then somehow it’s a wee bit easier to get started.

AND yes I know the lines aren’t straight! I gave up trying to use a ruler, it was just too much hassle. And it’s not like anyone else will need to see it (other than an outside chance I feel the need to show my husband).

Also, due to the fact that I also reward myself for every room I hoover, or every window I wash, or every piece of furniture I polish; I can keep track of how often and/or frequently I do these tasks, that aren’t daily tasks but need done on a semi regular basis. So, if I’m sitting thinking about when I last did a task, I can just flip back and get a definite answer.

I can see how some people may feel this is a bit like a child’s reward chart. But it works with kids doesn’t it? Why should we have to grow out of everything that helps! No one else needs to know. And it can be a way to save for treats that you otherwise cannot justify (I use 1ps because I’m temp and don’t always have a job: but the friend who told me about it uses other denominations [like 10p etc]).

Why not give this a go if you are having trouble organising your life. Perhaps if this doesn’t work for you, it might give you ideas about what else might help. Or if you use other techniques (or have other ideas) please comment below, we’d love to learn from your coping mechanisms.

Doreen Kelly

Admin Volunteer/DS Member

Harry Potter and the Magic of Accessible Books for All

I’ve never been a massive fan of Harry Potter. I watch the films and enjoy them, but I was discouraged from reading the books as a result of a teacher misjudging how long it would take to finish it, and consequently abandoned it partway through. Having said that, I think I was secretly glad given the miniscule size of the print. Following the announcement that the new play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, is to be released in a dyslexia friendly format, it got me thinking about the other books. Should this version of the play take off, it will hopefully lead to an increase in titles being available for those who have dyslexia and other difficulties that may impair either the ability to read, or enjoyment of, reading.

It’s not all good news though. The first thing the Amazon listing says is that the new copy of the play is in a large print version. While this is obviously helpful for those who find it easier to read books with a bigger font, it is simplistic and naive to assume this will help all dyslexic readers. I’m not dyslexic myself, but I am visually impaired and the assumption that my difficulties with certain things would be fixed if only someone made the text bigger was a prevalent misconception throughout my schooling. As a consequence, I am very empathetic to the fact that learning difficulties and impairments are nuanced and shouldn’t all be lumped together.

For those who argue that technology can take care of formatting preferences, they are making several misguided assumptions. Firstly, that people can afford to buy such things. Secondly, they aren’t realising that technology can hinder people’s ability to access books due to Kindles etc. having an unlimited battery life and screen glare. Also, some people just prefer a book, and they should, where possible, have that option.

I appreciate that it is costly and impractical for countless different versions to be made and the fact that the publication is endorsed by the British Dyslexia Association should at least be encouraging. Below that pronouncement, however, is the text “Formatting may also aid readers with visual impairment, Parkinsons disease, Stroke, Multiple Sclerosis, brain injury and Cerebral Palsy. Also great for all readers with tired eyes after a long day!”

The implication is that this is the additional support needs copy of the book, which is disappointing as I personally can’t see how it will help people with all of those conditions. Having said that, there is a huge part of me that wants to applaud the publishers of the book, W. F. Howes Ltd. Making books accessible to all is an admirable endeavour, and in order to achieve that someone has to be brave enough to get the ball rolling.

Well, rolling on. We can’t forget Strawberry Classics or Barrington Stoke, specialist publishers who format books so they can be easily read by people who have dyslexia. Without belittling the importance of their work – it’s both tremendous and vital – it is, at least in some ways, a shame that specialised publishers need to exist in order for this need to be fulfilled. While it’s great that there are publishers who specialise in the production of accessible books for dyslexics, it’s a pity that there are not specialists within mainstream publishing houses too. If there were, titles, both classics and popular fiction, may be brought to a wider audience. Furthermore, I think the demand is there. One in ten people in the UK are believed to have dyslexia alone, and while I know there is not – nor should there be – a one size fits all approach to formatting – more can still be done (look at books that children and young people need to read in school, for instance).

The publication of the dyslexia friendly version of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is not just a step in the right direction, but something other publishers need to capitalise on for the benefit of not just their profit margins but those with additional support needs. As the Amazon advertisement illustrates, they are numerous and deserve to be recognised by mainstream publishers. In doing so, publishers would not only recognise the right that everyone has to be able to read, but also send the message that dyslexia shouldn’t stop people being able to access books, whether that be for enjoyment or necessity.

Gemma Bryant

Book review: ‘Dyslexia and Mental Health’ by Neil Alexander Passe

This book gave me insight into the psychological effects that dyslexia can have on an individual. It did that by explaining the difference between defence mechanisms and coping strategies.  We use defence mechanisms in response to situations to protect ourselves from anxiety.  However, instead of dealing with the difficulty, defence mechanisms actually prevent us from doing so.  For example, if we drink alcohol to escape anxiety, we are not allowing ourselves to self-help. Coping strategies, on the other hand, enable us to fulfil our potential.

Here are some defence mechanisms the book discusses.

  1. Avoidance – in fact, this is termed as a ‘pre-defence mechanism’. E.g. if you really don’t want to write a report, you procrastinate writing it
  2. Denial e.g. denying that you are dyslexic even though you know you are
  3. Repression = forgetting something bad e.g. a car accident
  4. Regression = reverting back to a child-like emotional state e.g. bed-wetting, stammering, sulking
  5. Displacement (‘kicking the cat’) = taking your emotion out on someone or something other than the person you feel it about
  6. Projection e.g. if you think you’re stupid, accusing other people of thinking you’re stupid when there is no evidence to support this
  7. Reaction formation = when you are attracted to someone you know is unsuitable and you behave as though you can’t stand them
  8. Intellectualisation = thinking away an emotion that is uncomfortable for you
  9. Rationalisation = explaining away your bad behaviour
  10. Sublimation = using your emotions to produce positive results e.g. growing vegetables instead of vandalising cars

And here are some dyslexic defence mechanisms the book explores.

Emotional defence mechanisms

  1. Social withdrawal e.g. daydreaming, avoiding socialising
  2. Self-blame – internalising problems and punishing yourself
  3. Hiding in class – trying to keep out of the teacher’s radar
  4. Perfectionism – paying attention to detail
  5. Hypochondria, including psychosomatic pain
  6. Blocking out – trying not to think about the thing that threatens you
  7. Depression
  8. Drug or alcohol abuse
  9. Self-harm e.g. with food or body
  10. Suicide or attempted suicide


Behavioural defence mechanisms


  1. Truancy
  2. Distraction e.g. misbehaving in class
  3. Frustration
  4. Bad temper e.g. blaming others for difficulties
  5. Pessimism e.g. saying ‘I’m going to fail this test’
  6. Bullying – an expression of anger and frustration and a response to hostility
  7. Shouting, biting, tantrums
  8. Attention seeking e.g. shock, anger
  9. Fantasy e.g. imagining answering someone back rather than actually doing it
  10. Violence, revenge, property damage, criminal activities

The coping strategy this book suggests is Seligman’s ABCDE technique. This is about overcoming hopelessness in a learning context.

The book also identifies several different dyslexic coping profiles.  These really helped me to understand and accept myself and others.

I found some of this book difficult to follow, and some of it contestable. Nevertheless, I benefited from reading it.  The groups I would recommend it to are:

  1. Dyslexic adults;
  2. Parents / carers / educators of dyslexic children / young people; and
  3. Counsellors / psychotherapists.

My top 3 tips for tackling this book are:

  1. Start with chapter 14
  2. Consider skipping chapter 1 if you are finding it hard-going (it’s summarised in chapter 14)
  3. Before reading each chapter, read the conclusions and bullet points that come at the end of it.

Dyslexia Scotland has a copy of this book in its Resource Centre.

Published in the UK by Jessica Kingsley, 2015. ISBN 978-1-84905-582-6

This book review was written by a Dyslexia Scotland member.


Baby Bunting’s Summertime

This post was inspired by a recent BBC 4 documentary about George Gershwin’s Summertime, which is apparently the most covered song of all time. Whilst watching the program I also thought of the Bye Baby Bunting nursery rhyme. Below I will re-word and mash up these two songs to relate why I believe Dr Jim White’s Stress Control course can be extremely useful to individuals with dyslexia. Also Matthew Johnstone’s concept of the Black Dog of depression may make an appearance too.


And the livin’ is stressful

Dyslexia is jumpin’

And the stress is high

Your anxiety’s rich

And your depression’s backward looking

So hush the ‘If onlys’ and ‘What ifs’ of dyslexia


Bye confident and calm person

Thought’s gone a’haunting

Wellbeing’s gone a’melting

Panicky feelings’ gone a’swinging

Action’s gone to bring trouble

To wrap the brave and cool person within.


Don’t you stress and cry

One of these days

You’re going to gain control and rise up singing

Then you’ll shed those blinkers and see things clearly.

But for now meditate, to control your body

Dyslexia can’t harm you

With stress control and wellbeing standing by


Bye person I want to be

Grasshopper thought’s gone a jumping

To find those blinkers

To wrap my confidence in



And the thinkin’ is stressful

Grasshoppers are jump’

And the blinkers are high

Your stress voice is loud

And your common sense voice is drowned out

So brush back those blinkers

Don’t carry on

One of these 5 challenges

You’re going to combat and rise above the stressing

Then you’ll progressively relax

But till then retrain your breathing

With stress control and wellbeing standing by.


Bye happy baby

Daddy’s gone a hunting

That black dog skin

That should never wrap his baby within.

Doreen Kelly

Dyslexia Scotland volunteer and member





Pay it Forward

I’ve just watched NCIS within which Franklin D. Roosevelt was quoted. The following inspired me to write this post:-

“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”

The storyline of the episode included bullying and how disenfranchised young people were being radicalised through internet chat rooms.

Anyway, enough about NCIS. I am dyslexic and I have known I was since around Primary 6. I have also been bullied throughout school and since. So I completely empathised with the young boy who turned to Gibbs and said, something like: “I’m useless, everyone hates me”.

The point I am trying to get to is (in my opinion): Dyslexia should be diagnosed and diagnosed early. Dyslexia should be called Dyslexia because that is what it is. In my opinion, it is not a label which will hinder children. By not calling children with dyslexia “Dyslexic” we allow playground chatter to label them Stupid.

People with physical disabilities are allowed (in fact often encouraged) to name their condition. I believe those of us with neurodiversity issues should be given the same right.

I have heard there are many studies that show huge proportions of our prison population have neurodiverse issues. I am by no means excusing their crimes, as I have never been involved in criminal behaviour. I would be willing to bet, if similar studies were done of unemployed people, large numbers of them would have neurodiverse issues too.

Perhaps we could live in a society which wholly accepts diversity, starting from the most vulnerable of our children. A society which tries to create flexible environments, within which everyone had space and time to grow and blossom, and not just a select few. Perhaps many more people would respect themselves and each other. Perhaps our prisons would not be overcrowded. Perhaps unemployment would be reduced and the staff in our JobCentres would not be overworked and stressed (and may have the time to provide tailored, helpful support). Perhaps our teachers could have a break (occasionally) from disciplining children and actually teach: which is why many of them went into the profession.

Perhaps we could start constructing a society based on listening, understanding and working: rather than finger-pointing, telling and pigeon-holing. Perhaps we could work on this society in a hands on way and not just pay it lip service. Perhaps then we could have a united country within which most are contributing to the community, benefits are available for the most vulnerable and law and order is valued.

Clearly the issues I have explored are extremely complex and cannot and will not be solved by some nice words and ideas. Because let’s face it, I am not the first (and won’t be the last) to write something like this.

I doubt that any of these issues can be completely solved. They definitely will not be solved with just one strategy. Many strategies will be required. But would it not be worth it in order to wake up without thinking when the next terrorist attack will be, or the next tragic school shooting will be?

I would strongly recommend everyone be taught stress control techniques, because the figures of stressed people out there are horrific. Also, I learned about stopping, removing the blinkers and then employing a challenge technique when ‘grasshopper’ thinking takes hold. I attended lectures put on by the NHS: and the program was created by Dr Jim White. I have written an article about this for the next members’ only magazine “Dyslexia Voice”.

Doreen Kelly

Film review: ‘Read me Differently’

How might dyslexia affect relationships in a family? And how might those effects impact on individual family members?  That is what this documentary examines.  The director Sarah Entine found her family’s reaction to her dyslexia more challenging than the dyslexia itself.  3 generations struggled to communicate due to undiagnosed dyslexia and Attention Deficit Disorder.  Sarah wanted to see if she could improve the situation.


3 aspects of Sarah’s experience particularly struck me.

  1. The contrast between her school and home experiences. School was structured; home was a battle to gain her mother’s approval and acceptance through reading aloud.
  2. Although Sarah was identified as dyslexic at primary school, she didn’t understand her dyslexia until she was 29.
  3. Sarah identified communication as part of the challenge of dyslexia. As her experience highlights, while the obvious difficulties of dyslexia and ADD might grab our attention, we might fail to notice and address communication difficulties. As a result, our relationships – and we – can suffer.


I particularly appreciated the following aspects of this film.

  1. It is candid. With every photo and comment, I was able to make a direct comparison in my own life. That helped me to reflect on my own experience.
  2. It is clear and told by the person it’s about. Sarah narrates the film herself, very articulately.
  3. It doesn’t draw general conclusions from one individual’s experience. Instead, it focuses on real examples. This makes it convincing.
  4. It is realistic but also positive. There are poignant and moving moments but these are balanced by light-hearted ones. It inspires hope of change in the family context and shows us how change can be achieved.
  5. It discusses non-literacy difficulties of dyslexia including the following:
    1. The challenges dyslexic individuals can face in employment e.g. multi-tasking, clear communication, note-taking, distractions in an open-plan office, stress
    2. Short term memory e.g. word finding, telling stories of what happened over the course of a weekend
    3. Sequencing e.g. starting to talk mid-way through a thought, recounting a film in the correct sequence
    4. Social interaction e.g. Sarah didn’t talk at the tea table
    5. Feeling that we don’t fit in with our peers or at home
    6. Processing speed
    7. Summarising
    8. Auditory processing (as Sarah puts it, this is ‘pretty central in one’s life’ because it’s how we take in information)
    9. Reading comprehension (as distinct from reading)
    10. Non-verbal reasoning – brilliantly demonstrated when Sarah, her mum and grandma collaborate to self-assemble a piece of furniture.
  6. It gives several different perspectives: Dyslexic adult, dyslexic child, dyslexic learner (from primary school to postgraduate studies), parent of dyslexic child, specialist teacher.


I’d recommend using this film:

  1. For dyslexia meetings and Dyslexia Awareness Week events. The viewing guide provides discussion prompts, and activities for children and families.
  2. As a prompt for family members to reflect together on
  • how dyslexia affects their family relationships,
  • how they each communicate, and
  • whether there’s anything they could do to improve communication

3.  As a training resource e.g. for counsellors and educators.


My top tips for watching the film:

  1. You can stream it for individual use for 3 days from This option is not available on the film’s website.
  2. If possible, watch the film more than once. I definitely gleaned more content on the 2nd and 3rd viewings. It’s only 55 minutes long.
  3. If at any point the visuals are distracting you from what is being said, listen to the audio with your eyes shut.


This blog has been written by a member of Dyslexia Scotland.


Scrabbled: or is that Scrambled?!

A story about how dyslexic strengths can rule in the most unlikely places!

I submitted the following to the Scottish Book Trust 50 word fiction competition in April 2016 (there is generally a new writing prompt every month).

So Dad you’re a wordsmith!

Can you use letters strategically?


Astounding words are rarely possible with 7 random tiles.    

But I’ll place just a few tiles,

Behold I’ve created 3 wee words!

Let’s count!

Every tile counted at least twice.

Dyslexia equals talent!!!

I didn’t win the competition, but hey winning isn’t everything. Like that old saying, tells us: ‘it’s the taking part that counts’! This is particularly true of my experience with this piece, as soon as I saw the scrabble tiles in the picture on the Scottish Book Trust’s website, I was inspired.

After I finished university and I was looking for a job (I was still living at home). Dad and Mum had recently started doing the crossword in the paper (as Dad had heard this was a good way to keep the older mind active). Which led to us also bringing the old Scrabble set back out too.

Please allow me a short aside to tell you about the writing of the above piece. I was worried about the very low word count: so I decided to use the acrostic technique. And I had just intended to write about a game of scrabble. Writing about how: tactics often win out against someone who sounds like they have swallowed a dictionary. So I had pretty much finished my piece. And before I was aware of thinking it: the last three word line had arrived on the page.

OK after that aside. Back to our cosy Scrabble games. So we threw out the rule book: changing the normally competitive game into a co-operative endeavour (a couch co-op, if you like). As, even although (at that point) I had just achieved a BSc Hons degree (and immediately before that a CSYS, Highers and Standard grades), my spelling was still hit and miss. And as I would probably end up showing most of my tray each turn, with incorrect spellings. So we may as well all show our hands to each other.

Anyway, before long I realised that much better scores could be achieved by placing words like: – to, on, it, bat or cat (etc) down the side of an existing word. This is because you (then) get to count each of your tiles at least twice and use your letters much more strategically. Because Scrabble is not the arena through which to demonstrate your wide-ranging and academically-impressive vocabulary.

Just another example of how dyslexia and its unique gifts crop up in the most unlikely situations. 3 cheers for the lateral out-of-the-Scrabble-box thinking of us dyslexics!

Cheerie cheerio, Doreen Kelly



Are you a scrabble whiz?

Have you used your brilliant visual talents to conquer the written word?

Has the above post expanded your understanding of dyslexia?

More from Mary…

Working out that my 89-year-old aunt Mary was dyslexic answered a lot of questions; the identification in adulthood, late adulthood in Mary’s case, always does.   But it raised questions, too.

In a family of five children, four girls and one boy, dad was third born and Mary next, 18 months younger.   Mary idolised my dad, and he always ‘looked out for her’, particularly when they were teenagers and young adults.   Dad was a good scholar.   Mary was not.   From the day she started school she was in trouble – ‘You’ll never be like your brother John,’ teachers would say.   When I was a child I can remember Mary teasing my dad with this line.   But now, aware that we were both dyslexic, the perspective sharpened.   ‘You were bullied by teachers, weren’t you, Mary?’ I said.   Mary was, I think, one of the least sentimental women I’ve ever known, but tears brimmed in her eyes.   ‘They were cruel, Vincent,’ she said.   Knowing her sense of humour, fierce wit and ability to mimic, I guessed she must have taken on the role of ‘class joker’, as we dyslexics so often do, and in so doing became even more vulnerable to teachers’ bullying.

But something didn’t fit.   Mary had worked at the village Post Office, working there, part-time well into her seventies.   Like me, I knew that Mary could never learn multiplication tables and had trouble with arithmetic as well as print.   This was before the days of the calculator – so how on earth did she get into this work, and how come she stayed in it for so long?

Mary’s eyes lit up.   ‘Ah, it was all because of the Postmaster, Mr Parsons.’

After leaving school, Mary had helped her boyfriend Jim with the donkeys on the nearby beach, but when the war came, ‘I felt I had to get a proper job,’ she said.   ‘There was a job for a postwoman.   The young men were joining up, so I applied.   Mr Parsons said, “I’m not having a young girl like you going out early in the morning delivering the letters in all weathers.   You’ll work here in the Post Office with me.”   I said, “But I can’t do that sort of work, Mr Parsons.”   “Oh yes you can,” he said.   And do you know what he did?   He broke everything up into little bits!   We started with the stamps.   I’d be doing things like tidying, or drawing margins, but when a customer came in for stamps I’d be standing beside him, and tear off the stamps that the customer wanted.   Next I’d serve the customer myself, and he’d deal with the money.   Then he showed me how to take the money and give the change.   He said it was much easier if you counted the change out loud as you passed it to the customer until it matched the money they’d given you.

He broke all the work up into tiny little pieces, and when I’d learnt each piece, he just let me get on with it.   It wasn’t long before I was doing everything, the parcels, the postal orders, the telegrams, everything.   He was a wonderful man, Mr Parsons.’

‘You’ll never be like your brother John.’   Perhaps not.   But you’ll be just as significant.

Vin Arthey

To label or not to label?

There is a great deal of debate surrounding the question of whether or not someone should undergo assessment for dyslexia.  On the one hand, assessment can give reassurance to those with the learning difficulty that they are not unintelligent.  Furthermore, knowing that they are dyslexic allows people to rationalise difficulties they may be experiencing.  In having something to attribute potential problems to, they have something of a starting point from which to tackle them.  Not only this, but in a world where budgets are constantly getting cut and resources are becoming increasingly scarce, some people need the label in order to receive the appropriate support.  In a school or workplace environment, the label may be the difference between succeeding and not because, unfortunately, reasonable adjustments may only be made if the label is applied to an individual (in some circumstances anyway).

Others may not see dyslexia as a label, but rather as a gift that allows them to do certain things more easily than they otherwise would be able to. Conversely, the label may itself be seen as a gift; not just as it enables people to receive support in order to help overcome challenges, but it means those who have dyslexia may more easily develop a positive mindset specifically because they can say “I have dyslexia.  This is why my brain works differently.  Now, what can I do about it?”  They can then be directed to people in the same boat, or find role models in the media who have been in a similar situation to them if they wish to.

Of course, whether someone feels they need the label will depend on the sort of support they feel they require which will be dictated by the severity of their dyslexia and the circumstances in which they find themselves. While knowing that they are dyslexic may have been beneficial to people during their schooling, for example, they may find it detrimental to their career as adults for fear of the stigma that surrounds dyslexia in some fields.  Independent of that, individuals may feel that a label of dyslexia undermines their successes and is detrimental to their mental health.

Staged intervention is becoming increasingly common in schools. In Scotland, support can be given without a formal assessment or label. Without the label, children may not be not singled out as being different from their peers. Different learning needs are therefore normalised, irrespective of the reason for it.  Not only does this increase understanding of dyslexia, but some would argue that staged intervention is the most economical use of resources as it lessens the need for outside agencies.  By dealing with things “in house” communication, learning strategies and the eventual outcome may be deemed better as a result of fewer people being involved in the process.

Of course, everyone is different, and this blog is just a snapshot of what people’s experience of having dyslexia might be – if you want to find out more about the lives of people with dyslexia, I recommend Dyslexia Scotland’s Dyslexia and Us book.  Even then, it tells the personal stories of a group of people who are writing about their experience alone, which will have been shaped by their own personal circumstances.  The choice about whether to label someone with dyslexia or not is ultimately the same thing; a choice dependent on a variety of factors that may not be unique but they are personal to the individual and so are unique to them.  Therefore, there are no right or wrong answers to this debate.  Only understanding for both sides – or at least there should be.

Gemma, Resource Centre Volunteer

Engaging with books 3


The things that help me to engage with non-fiction apply to 2 sub-genres:

  • non-fiction on history e.g. World War 2 or the Cuban revolution
  • non-fiction on topics e.g. compassion or Darwinism

In this blog post, we’re going to look at each of these 2 sub-genres in turn, including some examples.

What helps me to engage with non-fiction on history (‘historical non-fiction’)

  1. Personalisation of history. I think the key to history for me is being aware that personalising it makes it accessible for me. By ‘personalising’ I mean telling the story from the perspective of one or more individuals. Facts and figures are too dry and abstract for me. They don’t sink in, whereas pictures and stories about sentient beings do.
  2. Biography / autobiography also enable me to access historical non-fiction.
  3. Alternative formats, especially graphic novels and films, have opened up historical non-fiction for me. There are some original graphic novels that are excellent at making history accessible. I give some examples below. I also find children’s graphic novels useful because they explain the history so clearly and accessibly.

Examples of historical non-fiction that make history accessible for me

  • Graphic novels
  1. ‘Palestine’ by Joe Sacco
  2. ‘Maus’ by Art Spiegelman
  3. ‘Persepolis’ by Marjane Satrapi; ‘Cuba: my revolution’ by Inverna Lockpez

For more graphic novels of historical non-fiction see here.

  • Dramatisation
  1. The film adaptation of ‘The Invisible Woman’, a print biography by Claire Tomalin
  2. ‘Barefoot Gen’ and ‘Barefoot Gen 2’, animé film adaptations of manga by Keiji Nakazawa
  • Print
  1. ‘Bridge Across my Sorrows’ and ‘Mama Tina’ by Christina Noble

What helps me to engage with non-fiction on topics (‘topical non-fiction’)


If I am using alternative formats but am still struggling to follow a work of non-fiction, I use strategies in addition. For example, using the following strategies helped me to follow ‘Twelve Steps to a compassionate life’ by Karen Armstrong:

  • I listened to it in audio before reading it in print to gain an overview
  • I used book group notes for comprehension
  • I wrote notes in the book and used highlighter pens. This helped me with navigation and comprehension
  • I read one chapter at a time, discussing it in detail in a book group every fortnight. This really helped me to take in and retain the content.

2. Contextualisation of topics

In my experience, the power of the graphic novel to make an abstract topic accessible is demonstrated brilliantly in ‘Logicomix’.   ‘Logicomix’ is a graphic novel biography of Bertrand Russell.  But it also explains his logic as an integral part of the book.  Setting the topical content (logic) in the context of the life of the person (Russell) who thought it up makes it accessible for me.  I found the same with a graphic novel biography of Charles Darwin that gives an excellent explanation of Darwinism¹.

3.  Very Short Introductions

How about you?

·        What helps you to engage with non-fiction?

·        Are there any books that have made history or topics accessible for you?

·        Have you tried ‘Very Short Introductions’? How do you find them?

If you have found this blog mini-series helpful…

You can find out here how narrative and dyslexia-features help me to engage with books.

¹ ‘On Charles Darwin: a graphic biography: the really exciting and dramatic story of a man who mostly stayed at home and wrote some books’ by Simon Gurr and Eugene Byrne

This series of three blogs was written by a member of Dyslexia Scotland