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Dyslexia Awareness Month: Dyslexia from a Teen POV, a guest post by teen blogger Lauren

For today’s Sunday Reflections and Dyslexia Awareness Month post I thought I would turn it over to a teen who has graciously agreed to share with us what it’s like to be a teen with dyslexia.

I’ve had a formal dyslexia diagnosis since I was eight years old, and, in the almost a decade since, I’ve learned a lot about what it’s like to live in a world where your brain doesn’t work in exactly the same way as most people. Though I was diagnosed fairly early into elementary school, it was only the start of a long road of dealing with schools and trying to help me work around my learning disability. Today, my dyslexia isn’t as huge of a part of my life as it was when I was younger thanks to a lot of support from tutors and my mother who fought fiercely to get me the help I needed. I’m lucky that I had the support I did because many people in my position don’t.

I have a weird relationship with dyslexia because I’ve always been a prolific reader. Though I always preferred listening to my mom read to me over doing it myself, I always had a book in my hand. English was where I excelled until it came to putting words on paper. When I was in second grade, I couldn’t spell to save my life. I still have the occasional nightmare about taking my paper up to the teacher and her telling me that I was lazy and rushing because of all the spelling mistakes. I would take the paper back to my desk and stare at it on the verge of tears because I could not find anything wrong with the way I spelled the words. There was nothing I hated more than disappointing my teacher, and she made me feel like a complete failure. The worst part was, I could never get the teacher to look at the paper long enough to see past the spelling mistakes to what I’d written.

When my mom went to my teacher with concerns about how I could ace spelling tests every week but write a paper where I spelled “beautiful” four different ways without realizing it, she was brushed off. The teacher assured her I was smart, and, if I paid more attention, I’d figure it out.

For the first semester of third grade, I was treated as a careless kid who didn’t care enough to spell or space properly. It wasn’t until our 50 States test that my teacher started to realize there might be something bigger at play. We had to spell every state and every capital properly to get credit. By that time, I knew I was bad at spelling and that I couldn’t get over it no matter how long I studied. I froze. I panicked. I refused to write anything for hours even though I knew all the answers. It would crush me to fail over spelling errors. When she broke down and told me to forget about spelling, I wrote them all out in less than fifteen minutes. Between that episode and getting back my standardized test scores, I finally got a teacher to recognize that there might be more going on than a behavioral issue.

That was the year I got tested. After the diagnosis, I worked with a woman who specialized in teaching phonetics to dyslexic kids. The goal, I guess, was that if I studied the rules enough, I’d become a phonetic speller. After two painful years of dead ends with that method of therapy, my mom took me to her friend who tutored kids. She was the one who finally cracked the code on the wiring of my brain. I’m able to read so well out loud and so fast in my head because every word I know, I have memorized by sight. I was shocked to learn that most people didn’t just know the principals of phonetics but used them every day to figure out words by sounding them out. I could memorize these ideas enough to pass a test, but I could never harness their full power.

It was this woman who suggested we try a method that would play off of how the pieces of my brain came together. She had me start typing everything, which was a completely novel concept at that time, in elementary school. When I started, the entire page was filled with red squiggly lines, most of which didn’t have suggestions for how to fix the words. We worked together to brainstorm ways to get the word close enough that the computer would understand. Between working with Holly and putting in time with my mom every day during the summers, I got the squiggles down to only a few words.

Having access to a computer changed my life. It made me so much more confident. It put aside all the unimportant details and presented my ideas in a perfectly spaced, perfectly spelled, perfectly bland font. The few assignments I got to turn in typed allowed my teachers to see what I was really capable of. It also helped me learn how to spell by reinforcing the correct spelling day in and day out instead of leaving me to aimlessly flounder in my mistakes. I would have had an entirely different outlook on school had this technology been available to me.

Sadly, the private school I went to elementary school at refused to allow me to bring a computer or have any other kind of accommodation beyond extra time. All the time in the world wouldn’t help me find my spelling errors, and, at a school where a point was counted off for every spelling error, my struggles paralyzed me. Even though by the time I was ten I knew it wasn’t my fault, it didn’t make me feel any less incompetent.

My mom moved me to public school under the impression that they would have to offer me more accommodations, but, after taking their testing, I was denied any accommodations. With my disability, I scoured average on the spelling section, and, even though this represented a huge drop compared to my other scores, they shrugged me off with policy loopholes. That’s one of the hardest realizations that you come to with schools. Lots of administrations are happy to leave children at okay or good enough instead of working to make slight tweaks that could help unlock student’s potentials.

Some teachers were more understanding than others, but, as everyone who has dyslexia or has parented someone dealing with it knows, there were a lot more people who didn’t understand or didn’t want to understand.

I finished high school online, free to use my computer for all my assignments, and it felt like a million pounds had been lifted off my shoulders. It’s still not a perfect system, but having the computer gets me a lot farther than I was. It’s helped me learn to spell, it catches my mistakes, and, if I can’t find the right order for the letters, I can ask Siri to spell it for me. Technology has changed my life, but I still feel a flood of panic every time I have to hand write an essay. On my AP exam, I felt like I was starting ten steps behind as spelling is considered in your final score. There was no way to tell them I was simply doing the best I could. My handwriting is leaps and bounds better, but I limit the vocabulary when I write people notes based on what I think I can spell. My spacing still looks weird sometimes. I flip numbers in my head. My dyslexia and the feeling of needing to prove myself I gained from being frowned upon all those years is still with me. It always will be. I’ve learned to adapt and live with it every day.

What this experience has taught me, though, is that all I can do is my best, and that’s all most people are doing. I try not to judge on superficial things, and keeping an open mind about people’s abilities is so important to me I wish that spelling wasn’t looked at as some marker of intelligence or proof that you care. I wish that more technology was available at a younger age to kids to help them get their work seen for what it is, and I hope that we’re moving closer to a more empathetic world where small tweaks can be made for kids that need them instead of being frowned upon as taking short cuts or “cheating” like I was told when I asked for help.

And I want kids that struggle with dyslexia, no matter what way it impacts them, to know that they don’t have to limit themselves to what they think they can safely do or to keeping people’s expectations. One of the things I’m most grateful for is that when I was younger, my mom never let me quit writing with big words even if I could barely spell them. Se refused to let me compromise on what I wanted. I also realized I loved telling stories, and, even when no one would look past the surface to read them, I kept working. Today, I’m a book blogger and a writer, two things that definitely don’t seem typical of someone with dyslexia. Do what you love even if it feels impossible at first because, even on the hard days, it’ll make you love the things your brain can do.

Meet Our Guest Blogger

Lauren is a writer and YA book blogger at www.readingwritingandme.com. When she’s not working on college applications, she’s working at her local bookstore or playing music. Lauren is also a mental health awareness advocate and host of the podcast, The Empathy Factor, where she’s always asking “What if that was me?”. 

Dyslexia Awareness Month: What are libraries doing? Here’s a small sample

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month and as a librarian and the parent to a child with dyslexia, I’ve been really focusing on how school and public libraries can better serve patrons with dyslexia. You can find all of our posts at our Dyslexia Awareness dashboard. Today I thought I would take a look at what some libraries are doing during this month.

Although this blog is not related to the library that I work at, I do work at the Fort Worth Public Library where I select materials for youth and work with the other staff serving youth to provide quality services to the youth in our community. Towards the end of September I sent out an email to our youth services staff talking about dyslexia, my experiences as both a librarian and a parent, and I highlighted areas of our collections that would be particularly helpful to our youth patrons with dyslexia. I was very happy to see the other day that as I walked through my library a co-worker had read my e-mail and used the display area that she is responsible for to put up a Dyslexia Awareness Month display. I was also happy to see that several of the books had been checked out. Thank you Joanie Ramos for this great display and helping raise awareness!

I was also very happy to see on Facebook that the Teen @ Washington County Free Library had chosen to do a display as well. They have done a great job here of highlighting the various services they have for patrons with dyslexia.

On Twitter I follow librarian Jennifer Taggart and she also shared what her library is doing for Dyslexia Awareness Month.

A quick search of Twitter using the hasthag #Dyslexia and the keyword library revealed a few other libraries sharing their Dyslexia Awareness Month displays.

That same search revealed that some libraries were bringing in guest speakers, sharing films, and raising awareness in some other ways as well.

If you’re not sure what your library can do to help patrons with dyslexia, please check out the ALSC guidelines here. You can also find an informative article addressing this topic here. And finally, please check out the infographic I made here.

Thank you to all of the libraries who have made the choice to help us raise awareness during Dyslexia Awareness Month. Remember, 1 in 5 children will be identified as having dyslexia and it’s important if we want to raise readers that we know how we can best serve youth with dyslexia.

If your library provides special services, is doing a display, has special collections, or somehow does something to reach out to patrons with dyslexia, please leave a link in the comments for us to see what other libraries are doing.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Nailed It!

A lot of the best programming ideas comes from TV. Game shows, food programs and craft programs are a great inspiration for programming. Today Cindy Shutts outlines how she ran a program inspired by the Netflix show Nailed It!, which of course was inspired by the ongoing Internet trend where everyday people share their attempts to recreate what they see on the Internet and when they have clearly failed announce that they have, indeed, nailed it.

Background:

Nailed It is the popular show on Netflix where people try to create yummy creations that look good, but often times they fail. I wanted to try to recreate this in a library craft program.

Supplies:

Your crafts can be different. I did not spend any money on craft supplies. I used leftover supplies I already such as magnets, paper, pipe cleaners and buttons.

Prepapring for the Program:

Step one: Create the crafts the patrons will be making. The crafts I chose were a Nailed It magnet and a paper sunflower. I have two rounds in my program..

Step Two: Prepare the supplies for the crafts

Make a list and check it twice to make sure you have all the supplies you need in the amounts that you need.

Step Three: Make Nailed It Trophy

Step Four: I made an optional PowerPoint presentation to go along with the program that listed all the rules and crafts and the time limits they would have to follow to make the craft easier to run.

Here are the basic rules the patrons where given:

  • Two rounds
  • This is not a race.
  • Round One is 30 minutes (this is plenty of time to include crafters who come late).
  • Each craft will have minimal instructions
  • You will have an example of each craft, but may not take it from the example table
  • You must share craft supplies such as glue and glue guns.
  • Judging will happen for Round One at 6:30
  • Winner of Round One will receive a hint from Miss Cindy
  • The person who places last in Round One will have Miss Cindy distract a competitor of their choice for one minute.
  • Round Two is 45 minutes.
  •  All of Cindy’s judging is final. No Bribes.
  •  You must keep you hand on your own craft. Do not touch someone or someone’s craft without permission.
  •  Winner will receive the Nailed it Trophy.
  • Loser will receive a Certificate of Completion
  •  Feel free to make your craft better than Miss Cindy’s.

Step Five: Run the program: This was one program where I tried to remember to be kind but funny when judging the crafts. The winner of Round One will receive a hint from me. I gave them gluing hints because I had given them three types of glue to use. I explained which glue goes where. The last place loser of Round One will have Miss Cindy distract a competitor of choice for one minute. This was harder than I expected. I turned on Cher’s Believe and danced around to it in front of the person of the losers’ choice.

Final Thoughts: I loved it! It was so much fun and people had a great time. The only issue was people who had never seen the show, but I did explain the show quickly to them. I have regulars who sign up for a lot of my programs without knowing what it is.

Book Review: The Year We Fell from Space by Amy Sarig King

Publisher’s Book Description: Liberty Johansen is going to change the way we look at the night sky. Most people see the old constellations, the things they’ve been told to see. But Liberty sees new patterns, pictures, and possibilities. She’s an exception.

Some other exceptions:

Her dad, who gave her the stars. Who moved out months ago and hasn’t talked to her since.

Her mom, who’s happier since he left, even though everyone thinks she should be sad and lonely.

And her sister, who won’t go outside their house.

Liberty feels like her whole world is falling from space. Can she map a new life for herself and her family before they spin too far out of reach?

Karen’s Thoughts:

I remember distinctly the day in the 4th grade when I came home from school and my parents told me to go get my brother. I knew in that moment on my way to get my brother that my parents would be announcing that they were separating. In my memory, the day that they told us they were officially getting divorced was exactly the same. I don’t know if that’s true or just a trick of memory. I remember promises made and promises broken. I remember fear and anger and confusion and parents who started dating other people. And I remember one day going camping with my Dad and him asking if we wanted him to tell us why they were getting a divorce and my just telling him no and walking away.

I tell you all of this because as a reader, The Year I Feel from Space was all too real for me and it was a very hard read. I loved it, I’m glad it exists in this world, and I’m here to tell you, it’s very authentic and real. And all of that is what made this a personally hard read for me.

I’m also here to tell you that there are kids just like me who need this book in the world. I needed this book in the world. I love that on Tuesday, October 15th, 2019, this book will exist in the world for every kid like me who needed it then or needs it now.

The Year We Fell from Space isn’t just about divorce, it’s also about navigating a world of feelings and mental illness. I am a person who parents with a mental illness; like the dad in this book, I struggle with depression (with some good ole’ fashioned anxiety sprinkled in to make it even more interesting.) I loved everything that this book had to say about mental illness. I appreciated the acknowledgements that came each time it was talked about. It is so vitally important the way that the characters talk about how depression isn’t the same for everyone and how it can look different. I like that it acknowledges things like guilt and failure and anger and how they, too, are wrapped up in depression. 1 in 4 people struggle with mental illness and it is profoundly meaningful for kids to read books that acknowledge the very real impact that having a parent with depression has on their lives and on their families.

There are a lot of other great moments in this book. There is a nontraditional mom who loves hiking, camping and feminism. There is talk about periods and acknowledge that it isn’t just girls who need to learn about them. There are a lot of great moments in which various characters wrestle with the topic of friendship and bullying in various ways.

And because this is a book written by Amy Sarig King, it weaves all these thoughts together using very creative strings, or I guess to stay on theme I should using very creative star maps. As someone who has read all of the works of A.S. King, I saw echoes of Ask the Passengers and Still Life with Tornado used in different and creative ways to give Liberty the opportunity to explore both her concept of self and her feelings. King uses her personal style to tell a meaningful and beautiful story while dipping into the surreal and creative; she is a master storyteller that enlightens, entertains, moves and challenges. King gets below the surface in ways that few writers do. I love that she has taken the respect she has always shown in the intellect and creativity in teens while writing YA and has extended that same respect to middle grade readers.

The Teen also read this book and because I knew she liked it I asked her why. Her response was, “I like that it says you’re allowed to feel whatever it is you feel and that it ends with a sense of hope.”

I love Liberty and her family and I think that readers will as well. This is a hopeful look at what it means to fall apart, to fall from space, and then try to put yourself and the pieces of your life back together again. This is an affirmation of feelings, the good, the bad and the ugly, and an exploration of what it means to feel on fire from anger and guilt on the inside. It’s an affirmation of the most fundamental truth of life: we are always in the process of becoming the new-new-version of us because we are a work in progress. And at the end of the day, nobody is perfect but how we deal with our own imperfections and the imperfections of those around us matters.

I highly recommend The Year We Fell from Space by Amy Sarig King. And so does 4th grade Karen who just wanted someone to help her navigate her parent’s divorce. And so does 46-year-old Karen who is trying to parent with depression. This book is written with middle grade readers in mind, but it’s a story for all of us in a world that needs more empathy and understanding.

Facilitating Racial Healing Circles, a recap of recent ALA training by Lisa Krok

Recently, I had the opportunity to learn about facilitating racial healing circles. This was a part of the training provided by ALA’s Great Stories Club program on Growing Up Brave in the Margins. The series is a part of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) efforts to bring about sustainable, transformational change, and address both contemporary and historic effects of racism in the nation and in communities. The books selected for the Great Stories Club (GSC) feature characters and plots that explore questions of identity, race, equity, history, social justice, and institutional change.

In order to qualify to be a part of the program, librarians/teachers/community partners need to complete a comprehensive grant application, detailing their proposal of how GSC will be used with their teens to tackle the goals stated above. Those who are awarded these grants (about 35 nationwide this session) are awarded four sets of eleven books each. For this session, the books are pictured below:

There are six choices to choose from, so participants select four out of the six, to best meet the needs of their teens. One copy goes to the leader of the book club, and the remaining ten copies are given to the teen participants. Additionally, the grant provides $1200 for extra copies of books and programming to accompany the selected texts. Grant applicants are encouraged to use the programming funds for racial healing practitioners. Grantees are provided with travel and lodging expenses to attend the multi-day training in Chicago.

Before we even went to Chicago for the training, each of us was asked to complete the supplied webinars on microaggressions and racial healing circle methodologies. We also engaged in online quizzes to assess implicit bias. These are free sets of tests provided by Harvard University. It was fascinating to see how our ideas about our own implicit biases were confirmed or not by these quizzes.

Implicit Bias: Take a Test https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html

Before beginning any type of talking circles, group agreements must be made. All participants are empowered to contribute to the creation of this agreement. Some common agreements are things like:

  • Approach people with an open mind
  • Demonstrate active listening
  • Be comfortable with brief silence
  • Lean into discomfort
  • Speak your truth
  • Sharing is by volunteers only, no forced sharing
  • Maintain confidentiality

The agreement can then be posted for group reference.

The Latin root of “facilitator” is facilis, which means easy.. The facilitator’s job is to make things easier for the rest of the group. Some ways they manage the discussions are:

  • Help the group create ground rules
  • Not representing self as an expert on the issue
  • Create opportunities for everyone to participate
  • Does not offer their own opinion
  • Bring in points of view that haven’t been talked about
  • Value group processes and the ways they work together
  • Support democratic process

Key facilitator skills are reflecting, clarifying, and summarizing during the discussion. Also be aware of non-verbal signs, which may vary amongst cultures. Neutrality is aspirational, but no one is 100% neutral. Challenges during the discussion may require redirecting or referring to the group agreement. If misinformation is presented, ask follow-up questions and find sources for information. In the event of tension or conflict, try the following:

  • “I” statements
  • Take a break
  • Address the tension in the room (keeping ground rules in mind)

Another tool that I shared with the group is the pocket guide from Teaching Tolerance.org. These foldable pocket-sized guides provide ways to speak up when witnessing racism or other offensive words and/or actions. They focus on the strategies of interrupting, questioning, educating, and echoing. They focus on addressing specific words and actions, not the person. These free pocket guides can be downloaded from:

Tolerance Speak Up Pocket Card https://www.tolerance.org/sites/default/files/general/speak_up_pocket_card_2up.pdf

 I was impressed with the training overall, which included facilitators from ALA, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and -Everyday Democracy.  We were provided with book specific discussion questions for driving narrative change, and activities and tools to use for racial healing circles. We participated in the circles several times throughout the course of the training, taking on the roles of both the participants and the facilitators.

More to come as this project unfolds throughout the next six months…stay tuned!

Lisa Krok, MLIS, MEd, is the adult and teen services manager at Morley Library and a former teacher in the Cleveland, Ohio, area. She is the author of Novels in Verse for Teens: A Guidebook with Activities for Teachers and Librarians, forthcoming from ABC-CLIO in February 2020. Lisa’s passion is reaching marginalized teens and reluctant readers through young adult literature. She was appointed to the 2019-2020 YALSA Presidential Advisory Task Force, served two years on the Quick Picks for Reluctant Reader’s team, and is proud to be a part of the #DiversityJedi. Lisa can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach.

Dyslexia Awareness Month: Books Featuring Main Characters with Dyslexia, a discussion and a book list

This month as I set out to learn and talk more about dyslexia, I went on a quest specifically to find out what types of books are better suited for readers with dyslexia. The answer to this question is slightly more complicated and I touch on it some in this infographic. Along the way I found a list of books for kids that feature main characters that have dyslexia. This is great, I thought. We’ve talked a lot about representation and I had just stumbled upon a list of books that could help kids with dyslexia feel seen and understood. The problem was, the list primarily featured younger kids. So I went looking for a list of teen (young adult) fiction that featured teens with dyslexia and to be honest, I didn’t find a lot.

So I asked my librarian friends on Twitter for recommendations and to be honest, I still didn’t find a lot. When you consider that it is believed that 1 in 5 people has dyslexia, it seems like there should be more than a couple of handful of books that feature characters with dyslexia. And keep in mind that some of what was recommended was just believed to be dyslexia, some of the books recommended don’t actually use that word. If we want to help kids with dyslexia feel validated and help our world better understand and support kids with dyslexia, I believe that it is important that the word dyslexia be used to help de-stigmatize and normalize our kiddos with dyslexia. They are around 20% of the population and it’s important. Though to be clear, any type of disability is underrepresented in youth literature and it is a huge opportunity for growth when we talk about representation.

Here’s a look at what I did find or was recommended to me.

Photograph of an RA tool I created to share with Fort Worth Public Library staff

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

Publisher’s Book Description: Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried. When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn’t just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. Not after last year’s rumors and not with her grades on the line. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help.

As Claudia digs deeper into her friend’s disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone? 

Karen’s Thoughts: I’ve read this book and it’s a very good book. At the time that I read it I wasn’t looking for dyslexia representation, but as soon as it was recommended to me for this list I thought, yes! The main character, Claudia, has dyslexia and it shown to struggle in many ways with reading, homework and many of the same issues that I see my child with dyslexia struggling with.

Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Publisher’s Book Description: Sixteen-year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of the car while her stepmom fills a prescription for antibiotics. Before Cheyenne realizes what’s happening, the car is being stolen.

Griffin hadn’t meant to kidnap Cheyenne and once he finds out that not only does she have pneumonia, but that she’s blind, he really doesn’t know what to do. When his dad finds out that Cheyenne’s father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes–now there’s a reason to keep her.

How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare?

Karen’s Thoughts: I have not yet read this book so I can’t comment on the representation of dyslexia, but it was recommended to me and I have read other April Henry books and she writes engaging books for teen readers.

Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers

Publisher’s Book Description: Karl, aged seventeen, is hopelessly in love. But the object of his affections, Firella, demands proof, and poses him a series of questions regarding his attitude to the many sides of love. But Karl is dyslexic, and convinced that if Firella finds out, she will think he is stupid, and unworthy of her, and leave him.

So Karl asks a local writer to help him construct his replies – and an unlikely, but extremely touching, friendship develops between the two men. They both come to learn a great deal about about life from a very different perspective, and when an act of violence shatters their calm, they find their respective appraisal of life shifting in profound ways.

This is Aidan Chambers’ Dying to Know You.

Karen’t Thoughts: This is another title that I haven’t read but I looked at reviews and all of the reviews clearly state that the main character, Karl, is dyslexic as does the publisher’s book description. Given that many of us fight to get our kids a proper diagnosis, I feel that it is important that the character is clearly identified as being dyslexic.

Life at the Speed of Us by Heather Sappenfield

Publisher’s Book Description: Silence is safe. Fate is not.

When Sovern Briggs survives a car crash, she stops talking to seal in the memory of the final sounds from her mother’s life. As conflict with her father builds and failure in school looms, Sovern seeks relief in a dangerous boyfriend and in speed’s adrenaline edge. These needs collide, leading Sovern to a snowboarding accident that changes her future and perhaps that of our universe.

Life at the Speed of Us weaves dyslexia, math, cutting-edge science, genius, and love into a young woman’s reluctant journey toward grace. 

Karen’s Thoughts: This is yet another book that I haven’t read that came recommended to me. Again, I appreciate and think it’s important that dyslexia is clearly named.

Close to Famous by Joan Bauer

Publisher’s Book Description: When twelve-year-old Foster and her mother land in the tiny town of Culpepper, they don’t know what to expect. But folks quickly warm to the woman with the great voice and the girl who can bake like nobody’s business. Soon Foster – who dreams of having her own cooking show one day – lands herself a gig baking for the local coffee shop, and gets herself some much-needed help in overcoming her biggest challenge – learning to read . . . just as Foster and Mama start to feel at ease, their past catches up to them. Thanks to the folks in Culpepper, though Foster and her mama find the strength to put their troubles behind them for good.

Karen’s Thoughts: I have read this book, though it has been a while. I love all books by Joan Bauer and remember loving this one. I looked at reviews and although they state the main character is struggling to learn to read, most of the reviews don’t indicate one way or the other if the main character is stated to have dyslexia. This book did, however, show up on a recommended reading list about dyslexia.

You’ll see Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo on the image above. It was recommended to me with the caveat that one of the characters discusses having some type of learning disorder related to reading by that they never outright call it dyslexia. So I share that here with that caveat.

If you want to see the original Twitter conversation and all of the recommendations, you can find it here:

And here is a picture of the RA tool I made for the staff at Fort Worth Public Library for books featuring characters with dyslexia of a younger age:

Other Reading Lists

https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/learning-at-home/encouraging-reading-writing/7-books-featuring-characters-with-dyslexia-or-adhd

Confessions of a Dyslexic Word Nerd, By Amanda Hosch

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month and this month we’re sharing posts and resources to help us all better understand what dyslexia is and how we can best parent and serve youth with dyslexia. Today we are honored to share a guest post by Amanda Hosch who shares her story of growing up with dyslexia.

I’m dyslexic.

I’ve learned when to announce this to new colleagues and friends. Too soon, and they tend to doubt me on a myriad of subjects that have nothing to do with spelling. (I can listen to a weather report as well as anyone.) Too late, and I’m met with disbelief and—more than once—arguments about whether or not I actually have dyslexia. (Dude, why would I lie?)

The beginning of formal schooling in first grade brought frustration and feelings of stupidity. Spelling tests were 20 words of pain and humiliation. It didn’t matter how carefully I read instructions, pesky “n’t” would appear and disappear, like a trickster, ruining my work. The middle of words vanished into thin air. Spaces appeared randomly. Did that word begin a “b” or a “d” or perhaps a “p”? Numbers jumped around. “9” tumbled upside down until it became a “6.” I can still feel the burn of shame on my cheeks when I failed the clock-reading test. I said the wrong number (6 or 9). When the teacher asked if the number was on the clock’s left or right side, I panicked and blurted out an answer. It was wrong, and everyone laughed at me. To this day, I have no idea how anyone innately knows left or right. I believe that most of you do, but I have no clue how. Oh, for those people who say, put your thumbs out at a 90-degree angle and see which one makes an “L.” Hi! Dyslexic here. “L” looks the same as “⅃” to my brain. That “trick” is no help at all, and I may be silently cursing that condescending helpful hint.

Fun side fact: besides regular old dyslexia, I have what’s known as directional or geographic dyslexia. I have no concept of left or right, have very limited spatial awareness, and can get lost a block away from home. Yeah, my older brothers thought that was a hoot.

If I had been left to figure things out on my own or just told to work harder, I would have hated school. Not too long ago, it would have been assumed I was incapable of learning. I’m incredibly fortunate because my mother knew something was wrong with my language processing and actively searched for answers. We were a family of readers and I loved being read to. However, even as a little girl, I wanted to be able to read by myself almost as much as I wanted a cat. When I was an adult, my mother told me that my diagnosis was a relief. My difficulties had a name and she had an action plan.

I’m not quite sure if my small, Catholic, New Orleans elementary school previously had paraprofessionals, but my mother somehow convinced the principal that she needed them. That I needed them. And so I and a few other students were given in-school support. At home, my mother would go over the sessions, reviewing and reinforcing them until I felt confident. Outside of school, I also saw a speech-language pathologist for my speech impediment.

I was taught how to learn—how I had to study—which was different than the easy-breezy read-it-once way my older brothers did.

When reading long paragraphs, it helped to have a solid ruler under each line so that the word chunks wouldn’t play switcheroo and bounce up or down a couple of lines, jumbling meaning. Sometimes, it meant my mother had to read a passage out loud to me as I read silently along. Or have her spell out a word slowly since looking words up in the dictionary was an exercise in futility if I couldn’t decode the first syllable.

Early intervention made a difference.

Let me rephrase that: early intervention made a huge difference for both my academic success and my emotional wellbeing.

By the time I entered fourth grade, I had study skills out the wazoo, and was reading way above grade level. For pleasure!!! The librarians at my local branch (Nix Library on Carrollton Avenue) knew me and would offer suggestions. I adored Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, James Herriot, and Agatha Christie. I learned to be comfortable while reading, accepting that sometimes (lots of the time) I’d have to reread a passage until it would settle down on the page.

And yes, spending two to three hours a week memorizing how to spell 20 vocabulary words might seem excessive, but remember this was the late 70s/early 80s, and there were only three major TV channels. Throw in a perfectionist streak and a desire to one-up my brothers, and well, that’s how this dyslexic finally won the spelling award in 8th grade.

Even now, decades later, letters/letter chunks still swim around on the page, especially if I’m tired. Ending of words go missing all the time. Is there a “d” at the end of “you’re welcomed?” I’ve looked it up dozens of times and still can’t recall.

While early intervention with learning strategies made the difference in being able to do schoolwork well, my mother’s unwavering support and belief in my ability to succeed meant I never blamed myself for being dyslexic. It simply was. Like my brother needing glasses. No big deal. School was more work for me than for others, but I had the tools.

I graduated near the top of my class at my college-prep high school. Was a lead in my high school play senior year. Was editor of my university newspaper. Been published in academic journals. Taught at the university level in Europe and Asia. Traveled throughout North America, Asia, and Europe. Wrote a middle grade mystery. (A special shout-out to all the copy editors and proofreaders of the world!)

I will always be dyslexic. There is no cure. However, I have strategies formed over a lifetime to work through difficulties and the self-confidence to use them.

If you have a young person in your life who has dyslexia and you want to help, here’s some things that were useful to me:

Accept the child as is. Be patient. Be kind. Ask questions and listen.

Ask how they would like feedback. Do they want hints about what’s wrong or do they need it clearly pointed out? Adjust as they child changes.

Don’t mistake discouragement for laziness. Don’t tell them they need to focus better. It’s tiring to always be the one who has to work harder for every small success. Would you tell a kid who needs glasses to squint harder to see the white board?

Acknowledge the child’s hard work. Actively tell the child you see the effort.

Advocate for the child. Ask for testing if you think there’s an issue. Ask for services if needed. Politely but persistently. Encourage and gently reinforce learning strategies at home.

Find out what the child enjoys, support them, and let them dig into that subject.

Audio books count as reading. Graphic novels count as reading. Re-reading books count as reading.

If the child is a word nerd like me, explain that English orthography is weird. Do you remember this from school: “i before e except after c or when sounded as ‘a’ as in neighbor and weigh”? Weird (see what I did there?), it’s like there’s a glacier (again!) of words that don’t follow that rule. With a little bit of time, I could probably think of at least eight (I’ll stop now) more examples.

Meet Our Guest Blogger

Amanda Hosch loves writing, travel, and coffee. She lived abroad for almost a decade, teaching English as a Foreign Language. A fifth generation New Orleanian, Amanda now lives in Seattle with her husband, their daughters, two rescue cats, and a ghost cat. Her first novel, MABEL OPAL PEAR AND THE RULES FOR SPYING, a middle grade mystery, was published by Capstone Young Readers in 2017. A cat on her lap and a book in her hand is her ideal way to pass an afternoon.

Dyslexia Awareness Dashboard: All our Dyslexia posts and references in one place to help us all better serve youth with dyslexia

My Journey Parenting a Child with Dyslexia

Here are the articles I have written as both a librarian and the mother of a child with dyslexia in which I share my personal journey of learning how to better understand, advocate for and help my child with dyslexia. Every day I’m learning more about how to better understand and help my child and children like her. I hope you will join me on this journey because if we want to raise readers, we need to understand that not everyone learns to read in the same way and at the same time. And if I could say one important thing to you it is this: never ever shame a person on their reading journey, no matter where they are at, what they are reading, or how it may differ from yours.

Being a Librarian Did Not Prepare Me for Parenting a Child with Dyslexia 

How Misuse of the 40 Book Challenge Made My Dyslexic Child Hate Reading and Why I Pushed Back 

Middle Grade Graphic Novels That a Middle Grade Reader with Dyslexia Really Loves 

So You Want to Raise a Reader? I Have Some Tips for You 

In Which I Interview Thing 2, My Child Who Has Dyslexia (She wrote some of the questions herself)

Everything You Need to Know About Dyslexia and Library Services to Youth with Dyslexia at TLT

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, so let’s get started

How Libraries Can Better Serve Youth with Dyslexia, an Infographic

Dyslexia Awareness Month: Providing a Variety of Formats is an Access Issue

Additional Posts About Dyslexia at TLT

What if it’s more than Reluctant Reading

Books Featuring Main Characters with Dyslexia, a discussion and a book list

Dyslexia from a Teen POV, a guest post

What are libraries doing for Dyslexia Awareness Month? Here are a few examples

Dyslexia Awareness Month: Tips from an Educator on Helping Students with Dyslexia Succeed

Dyslexia Awareness Month: Dyslexic—and Bilingual? a guest post by Laura Rueckert

Dyslexia Awareness Month: Dyslexia from a Teen POV, a guest post by teen blogger Lauren

Library Services to Youth with Dyslexia Guidelines and Examples

Upper Arlington in Ohio services to children with dyslexia

IFLA has some great discussion about services to patrons with dyslexia as well

ALSC guidelines for library services to children with dyslexia

An interview with The Dylslexic Librarian

Dyslexia Organizations, Dyslexia 101 and Designing for Dyslexia

Resources to learn more about the basics of dyslexia and how to better serve youth with dyslexia. Many of these websites have helpful infographics and design tips that we should keep in mind when designing our signage, flyers, etc.

CNN: This is what reading is like if you have dyslexia

International Dyslexia Association

Dyslexia Fact Sheet

Made by Dyslexia

Decoding Dyslexia

Understood.org

Dyslexia Affects More Than Just Reading, here’s a look at other skills that can be affected by dyslexia

DITC: Dyslexia in the Classroom, what every teacher needs to know

Dyslexia Accommodations in the Classroom – please don’t ask students to read aloud, don’t count off for poor spelling, don’t insist on book levels, don’t make book levels public knowledge if you use them, and consider letting students take photos of notes on the board or provide printed out copies of notes. These are just a few of the accommodations that are suggested to help youth with dyslexia be successful in school. A quick Google search will lead you to many more resources about this important topic.

Dyslexia and High School Drop Out Rates – Undiagnosed dyslexia, self-esteem issues and an unsupportive learning environment or lack of resources can lead to a higher drop out rate for students with dyslexia. It is imperative that we advocate for early diagnosis and proper educational support and that our youth with dyslexia are given proper instruction in order for them to be successful.

Scholastic: Dyslexia, what teachers need to know

Dyslexia, what you’re seeing in your high schooler

F is for Fail – this article is from Canada, but it touches on some important points. One of our biggest measures of academic success is whether or not a child can read at level in the 3rd grade. However, schools don’t typically test for dyslexia until the second semester of their 2nd grade year. At this time, it’s often too late for proper intervention. We need routines screening beginning the moment our kids start school to help get them and keep them on track.

Dyslexic Library – a blog by a mother and daughter

Social and Emotional Problems Related to Dyslexia – want to better understand what it’s like to have dyslexia? This article really helped me better understand that anxiety and self-doubt that can come from having a brain that thinks differently in our world.

Infographic source cites on infographic itself

6 Surprising Bad Design Practices that Hurt Dyslexic Users

Designing for Dyslexia

What to Look for in Books

What makes a book dyslexia-friendly?

Scholastic Acorn and Branches books are a great resource for readers grades K-3. Also look at graphic novels and audio books, especially for readers grades 3-7. Graphic novels, audio books and hi-lo readers like those published by Orca are great for high school readers with dyslexia. Many people have also suggested decodable books. Digital media is a great resource for readers with dyslexia and tools like Overdrive allow readers to personalize their tools in ways that work best for them.

When recommending books to readers with dyslexia, consider the following:

Shorter is better – shorter words, sentences, and paragraphs help prevent the blurring of text.

Bigger is better – bigger text can help prevent the blurring of text as well

Sans-Serif fonts – many people with dyslexia find san-serif fonts easier to read

More “white space” on the page – having more white space, or negative space with no text at all, on the page is helpful

But not actual white space – black text on a stark white background is often the most difficult to read, using an off white page can be helpful for many readers with dyslexia

To the left, to the left – Left justify your text for easier reading

Simple is better – Whatever you can do to simplify your text is better. Use bold lettering instead of italics, for example. Don’t add a lot of flourishes and fancy stuff. You want to make it as easy to read as possible so that readers with dyslexia have less opportunities to mix up letters and words, skip lines or paragraphs, etc.

Cindy Crushes Programming: DIY Alcohol Sharpie Tiles

This was a request by my teens. There are a lot of pictures of this craft on Pinterest so it was pretty easy to figure out what the teens I work with want. There’s a pretty good walk through here.

Supplies:

  • White Tiles
  • Sharpies
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Droppers
  • Crystal Clear Acrylic Coating Spray

Step One: Prep Your Tile

Get a tile and make sure it is clean.

Step Two: Add Sharpie to the Tiles

I learned that using a lot of Sharpie works best for me. Some teens used a little Sharpie, which worked for them. Metallic Sharpie works, but the regular colorful Sharpies are easier to get a lot of brightness.

Step Three: Add the Alcohol

Add drops of alcohol on the tile and then let dry. This step could take up 45 minutes. You do not want the tile to be completely covered with the rubbing alcohol.

Step Four: Spray the Crystal Clear Acrylic Coating Spray

Be prepared because the whole tile is going to change once you do this step.  I do not recommend having names or special designs that you want to be permanent on the tiles because once you have used the spray it really shifts the Sharpie to give it a nice marbled effect. Let the tile dry. I have the teens do the spraying outside on our children’s patio because the smell is very strong. You could spray it inside, but it would be better to do it outside if at all possible.

Final Thoughts: This was a super cheap craft. I already had extra tiles and Sharpies. A coworker let me borrow her Crystal Clear Acrylic Coating Spray so it allowed me to save money on this craft. This is a good craft for teens that want to hang out with their friends. There is a lot of wait time, but that just makes it a more social craft event.

Graphic Novels for Middle Grade Readers, a contemporary reading list

Graphic Novels are having a moment, and rightfully so. Every tween and teen I know is reading graphic novels. I’ve talked a lot about them recently in terms of the benefits for readers with dyslexia, but the truth is that every middle grade reader I know is reading graphic novels. Particularly, every middle grade reader I know is reading Raina Telgemeier and the Real Friends series by Shannon Hale. So last week I went on Twitter and asked for Reader’s Advisory help. I specifically asked for recommendations of middle grade graphic novels that feature a contemporary setting that focuses on friendship or family for fans of Telgemeier and Hale. This is what was recommended to me.

You can read all the replies in the Twitter thread here:

Raina Telgemeier has a thread on Twitter of recommended reads as well.