Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Dyslexia again – and Sally Gardner

I was lucky to attend Seeing the world differently: a celebration of reading and dyslexia last week. Times book critic Amanda Craig, Booktrust’s books and disability consultant Alexandra Strick and children’s and teenage books author Sally Gardner discussed dyslexia. Gardner (on the right) is so severely dyslexic she was branded unteachable, and sent to a school for maladjusted children. Although her dyslexia has most certainly imposed challenges, not least that she did not learn to read until she was fourteen, and then despite rather than because of her education, she views it as a blessing rather than a curse: the source of her creativity and imagination.

The panel highlighted the difficulties still faced by lots of children and young people with dyslexia, indeed the audience included several who had experienced them first hand, in particular accusations of stupidity and very late diagnosis. Everyone agreed about the need for more understanding of the issue, more support for dyslexics, especially multi-sensory and visual approaches to learning, and more books that feature characters with dyslexia and other special educational needs. All view audio books as enormously helpful, and see e-books as having revolutionised reading for dyslexics.

Gardner talked about her wonderful, very dystopian, new teenage novel Maggot Moon and its dyslexic hero. She showed several clips from the amazing i-book version. One graphically illustrates how text can appear to dyslexics. It’s the best demonstration I’ve seen. The words constantly move about and turn themselves into anagrams. I’m delighted that Gardner and Hot Key Books have made it available on YouTube. I will be using this often on courses about special needs. It’s a great way to help people understand the impact of dyslexia.

Teachers and school librarians may be interested in a new online resource I’ve just discovered. Dyslexia Action and RNIB developed Load2Learn to help dyslexic and blind and partially sighted school students. Curriculum materials can be downloaded in a range of formats, then adapted to suit individual needs.

It was great to talk to all the panellists and Hot Key staff after Thursday’s event. Strangely, I reviewed another of Gardner’s books, Operation Bunny, for The School Librarian earlier that day. It’s totally different from than Maggot Moon, much lighter and funnier, and for a much younger audience. What a versatile author she is.