Dyslexia Awareness Week is here! The 2nd to 8th of October is a time to shine a light on the experiences of those with dyslexia, encouraging them to embrace their remarkable strengths and talents. This week is also about celebrating the uniqueness of the dyslexic community, raising awareness of neurodiversity, and providing support to those living with dyslexia.
Despite affecting approximately 1 in 10 people in the UK, dyslexia is still widely misunderstood. Dyslexic people can find reading and writing challenging. However, it’s important to remember that being neurodivergent doesn’t define a person's abilities or limit their potential. Those with dyslexia show great strengths in other areas of learning, such as creative problem-solving. Many individuals with dyslexia are also exceptionally innovative and visual thinkers, finding alternative ways to learn. Author and celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, has dyslexia and explains how he utilised his strengths to become an author:
“'My dyslexia has meant I’ve come at the writing process from a very different perspective, a different angle, which might not have been the easiest journey, but it’s the most rewarding. I’ve always had to find other ways to express myself, and I’ve just learnt what I’m good at and not good at.”
With the right support, children with dyslexia can fall in love with reading and writing. They may even grow up to become an author like Jamie! By playing to their strengths, nurturing their interests, and providing accessible resources, we can unlock their full potential and open the doors to a world of storytelling. Every child should have the opportunity to explore the joys of literature, and for children with dyslexia, this journey can be uniquely enriching as they discover their own distinctive path. Let’s explore some of the ways that you can help your child with dyslexia fall in love with reading and writing.
1. Create a positive and supportive environment
One of the first steps to igniting an interest in literature is to create a positive and supportive environment. This involves not only offering emotional support but also being a role model. Children look up to their parents, so if they see you enjoying books, they are more likely to develop an interest themselves. It’s also important to ensure that reading and writing are seen as enjoyable activities rather than chores. Make time for reading together and create a cosy book nook at home. Encourage your child to express themselves through writing without the fear of making mistakes. Positive reinforcement and praise can go a long way in boosting their confidence.
2. Experiment with dyslexia-friendly materials and support tools
To make literacy more accessible and engaging for children with dyslexia, make use of support tools and materials. These include books with dyslexia-friendly fonts and layouts, which typically feature larger text, wider spacing, and shorter paragraphs. These reduce the visual stress that children with dyslexia may experience, making it easier for them to focus on the story. You can also consider using coloured overlays or reading apps that can adjust text settings to suit your child's needs.
3. Take part in shared reading
Spending time reading together is a fantastic way to engage children and enhance their understanding of texts. Read aloud together and encourage discussions about the plot, characters, and emotions portrayed in the story. Ask open-ended questions to promote critical thinking and encourage your child to express their thoughts and opinions about the story. By taking part in shared reading, you can support your child and make it an enjoyable experience.
4. Encourage storytelling and creativity
Storytelling and creative expression are powerful tools in literature, and individuals with dyslexia can have an exceptionally creative mind and strong communication skills. So, why not encourage your child to create stories verbally and draw illustrations to go along with them? This allows children to express themselves in a fun and imaginative way, building their confidence. You can also engage in collaborative storytelling, where you take turns adding to a story, sparking your child's creativity and further improving their communication skills. Authors with dyslexia, Mark and Roxanne Hoyle (AKA LadBaby), explain just how crucial it is to ignite children’s imaginations and engage them in creative storytelling:
“We believe that EVERYONE possesses the ability to craft and share their own stories with the right love and support. As parents who both struggled with dyslexia, we know how vitally important it is to captivate children and their imagination to nurture their passion for reading and creativity as early as possible. We want to encourage every child to embrace dyslexia as a gift and be proud of the superpower they were born with.”
5. Make use of audiobooks and e-readers
Audiobooks and e-readers can be valuable tools for children with dyslexia. By providing multiple ways to access texts, you empower your child to choose the method that suits them best. E-readers allow children to read books with a dyslexia-friendly font, and audiobooks allow them to access literature independently and at their own pace. Author, Jamie Oliver, talks about the importance of creating an engaging audiobook for his book, Billy and the Great Adventure:
'Audiobooks are great for capturing the attention and imagination of those kids who struggle to read, who find books tricky. This is why it was so important for me to create a really engaging audiobook for Billy. It helps to bring it to life. The audiobook is very immersive and sensory – which for people like me is epic because just looking at black and white and investing in a story was always my biggest challenge.'
6. Make reading and writing a part of everyday life
Have fun integrating reading and writing into your child's daily routine. This can be done in various ways, such as keeping a journal, creating short stories, writing shopping lists, or even sending emails to family and friends. The key is to keep these activities fun, short, and relevant to your child's interests.
7. Explore different genres and writing styles
Every child is unique, so it’s important to introduce them to a range of writing styles and genres. Whether it's graphic novels, poetry, magazines, or diaries, find materials that captivate your child's imagination. This can help them to discover their preferences and develop a genuine love for reading. Does your child love dinosaurs? Why not explore an encyclopaedia about prehistoric animals? Or perhaps your little one enjoys baking and cooking. If so, dig out some old recipe books to read. Tailoring the reading materials to your child’s individual interests is a wonderful way to increase their motivation and engagement.
8. Celebrate the small things
Finally, celebrate your child's progress, no matter how small. Dyslexia can present unique challenges, and every achievement should be acknowledged and praised. Positive reinforcement boosts their confidence and motivation to continue developing their fantastic skills. Set achievable goals and celebrate the journey of learning and growth. Make sure to emphasise that mistakes are a natural part of the process!
There are so many ways to celebrate neurodiversity and encourage children with dyslexia to do things their own way. Authors like Jamie Oliver and Mark and Rox Hoyle are inspiring examples, proving that people with dyslexia can use their exceptional strengths to achieve great things.
Jamie says, “Through Billy and the Great Adventure, I wanted to show that there’s more than simply the conventional way of doing things, there’s your way of doing things, the ‘Billy-Boy Way’, so you can play to your dyslexic strengths. And I hope it inspires those children who do struggle at school to find their own ways of doing things like Billy has. I carefully chose the font to be easy for those with dyslexia to read, the layout is easy to follow, and I created an audiobook, so those who might not love reading can access the book. I hope I’m the proof that being dyslexic means that you can still achieve whatever you want to – just believe in yourself.”