What Gaps Exist?

Following the recent news that Michael Morpurgo has written the first book in a series that is being published with the intention of making it easier for dyslexic parents to read to their children, I was surprised that, as the volunteer Resource Centre Manager for Dyslexia Scotland, I hadn’t realised that such a big gap in the market existed.  While it makes sense that everything that can be done to make reading easier for those who struggle with it should be, this is not something I had previously thought about.  In my defence, I’m neither dyslexic nor a parent and therefore had no reason to.

That having been said, it has caused me to ponder what other resources could be developed and used by dyslexics.  While I have seen books that explain what dyslexia is to children of various ages, for instance, I have seen none written from the point of view of a dyslexic parent.  Similarly, while there are books detailing how teachers can assist dyslexic pupils, as far as I’m aware there is nothing out there written from the perspective of a dyslexic teacher.

These are, of course, just two examples and it is probable that those who have experience of the condition can think of many more.  Getting back to the matter at hand, though, the fact that the idea for a series of books aimed at dyslexic parents and their children came about after Barrington Stoke were approached by a man who faced difficulty reading to his child poses an interesting point.  If something so worthwhile can occur through a simple conversation, what could a more frequent dialogue between dyslexics and official bodies, such as Government organisations and publishers to name but two, achieve?    On a related note in terms of resources, what would dyslexics like to see produced?  Given the gap that has been closed as a result of one man’s plight (although it is doubtless many other dyslexic parents will have also faced this issue) it stands to reason that many more barriers may well be overcome with open communication lines, which is why roundtable events, feedback and social media are so important – in giving dyslexics and those who help them a variety of ways to communicate you are not only making them feel more comfortable but giving them various ways in which to express themselves.  In doing so, a clearer idea is gained with regards to what support and resources dyslexics need.

In this instance, books that are accessible to dyslexic parents benefit more than just them and their children.  While it is true that they will improve the self-esteem of the parents and ensure that their children are not denied a love of books, reading and all the things that come with it (knowledge, empathy and a more imaginative mind were just three things that came into my head as I was writing), it benefits the wider world too.  For if dyslexics are given the ability to read to their children, does it not stand to reason that having this opportunity may make them want to overcome the difficulties they may face as a result of their dyslexia and become more productive in the workplace as a result of their improved literacy, for example?  Would being read to from a young age possibly make it easier and more enjoyable for youngsters to learn to read and consequently value education more?  While the definitive answers to these questions cannot ever be known, I cannot see a negative outcome to such a worthwhile endeavour.  Let’s hope Michael’s book, called All I Said Was, is the start of a new phenomenon: parents having a way in which to read to their children without being hindered by dyslexia.

All I Said Was by Michael Morpurgo and Itch, Scritch, Scratch by Eleanor Updale, books that have been created to enable dyslexic parents to read to their children, will be published in March 2014 by Barrington Stoke.

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Dyslexia Awareness Week 2013: Making People Aware of the Importance of Reading

Earlier today, I stumbled across an extremely well written article regarding the importance of libraries, books and reading.  The writer was author Neil Gaiman, who gave the annual Reading Agency lecture (Reading Agency being an organisation that, according to Gaiman, exists to give equal opportunities to all by helping everyone become able readers).

In the lecture, he spoke about why books are so vital.  You may wonder why this merits repeating, but in the context of Dyslexia Awareness Week, I think it is no bad thing to remind ourselves of a couple of simple facts:

It is estimated that 1 in 10  people in the UK have dyslexia.

A significant part of this condition means that those who have it find it difficult to read.

So what is it that they are being denied as a result of this?  Or, to put it another way, why is reading essential?

One, reading introduces people to new words that arm them with new ways in which to express themselves that leads to a greater understanding of themselves and other people.  On a related note, this increased understanding lets people make sense of the world around them generally not just at work or school, but even in just having a conversation with friends.  The more words we know, the more nuances we can make, meaning that we can understand people better.  Consequently, this makes it easier to empathise with others and to be more engaged with society.

I’m not just talking about understanding what’s going on in, for example, Game of Thrones, either.

As much as people find a book easier to digest when they can relate to the character (aged eight I chose the first book that I read for pleasure on the basis that the character and I had the same name) it is not possible to identify with everyone you read about.  However, the more you read, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, the more knowledge you have about situations you may one day encounter.

For those books that have no bearing on real life whatsoever, well, that’s true escapism.  Who doesn’t deserve that?  And even if they don’t happen to have anything in common with reality at first glance, it doesn’t mean they can’t.  For example, nobody is going to meet a wizard like Harry Potter, but perhaps they will need to have the courage in the face of adversity that Harry so often displayed.

“Oh but why not watch the film?  Kids will prefer that anyway!”  I hear you cry.

Here’s the thing.  With film and TV, the colours, sights and sounds are there to be seen already, it’s someone else’s world, not yours that can be imagined and explored in your head.

When you come out of the book and back into the real world, you are better for it (provided you haven’t been forced to read it) regardless of the initial intention.  Not only that, but for so many reasons, knowledge is power.  Empowering dyslexics is even more important than it would be for others when you consider that they often feel powerless as result of the struggles they face.  If a dyslexic is encouraged to read and finds a good book then maybe being dyslexic won’t be so scary anymore, which is why an organisation like Barrington Stoke, and indeed literacy in general, is so crucial.

Neil Gaiman conveys the general importance of literacy much better than me,  check out a transcription of the lecture.