My Child Might Be Dyslexic – How Can I Keep Them Interested in Reading?
Dyslexic Children & Reading
You’ve googled all the symptoms, fretted over handwriting, frustration levels run high during reading time, and they keep making the same mistakes. Perhaps you have dyslexia running in your family?
Maybe the school has mentioned they are monitoring your child because they suspect a learning difficulty. Whatever it may be, most children aren’t screened/assessed ‘officially’ with dyslexia or other learning challenges until they are over 4 or 5.
Because there are such a wide variety of symptoms, assessment often doesn’t identify the specific problem until children are over 8. Maybe even older. Maybe never.
As a parent, you don’t want to give up. You know these are critical years to keep an interest in reading alive. But it can be very difficult to stay motivated, especially when you have a reluctant reader who can’t make sense of the words in front of them. You are not alone!
But, how do you know what to look for when shopping for a book for your (possibly dyslexic or neurodiverse) child?
Your school may supply books for your child to read which are ‘age-appropriate’ and ‘reading level appropriate’ but, what if the subject matter isn’t of interest to them anymore? That can be as much of a turnoff in itself to reading.
So I want to talk to you about how you can keep fanning a flicker of interest in reading with a child who is struggling to read but doesn’t understand why.
How to Keep Reading Fun for a Child that Might Be Dyslexic
First, let’s talk about priorities. A book is great, but any reading of any form is as good. Where we really want to be heading through childhood is ‘reading is enjoyable.’
Reading is fun.
Reading is a gateway to escaping our world and entering another.
This probably seems out of reach to a child struggling with recognizing letters, blending sounds, and words that jump and wriggle on the page. But, that is where a parent can have the most impact on a child.
Sharing reading together – anywhere – helps bring that ‘reading is fun’ point home. We need to read to get through life, and we can only do so well with continued practice.
If we can get a child to love reading, despite the challenges, we are winning!
With this in mind – on the ‘ok to read’ list now – comics! Also – subtitles, signs on the road, packets in shops, slogans. Anything will do; just keep practicing chunking and blending the words.
More Ways to Make Reading Fun
Comics are actually perfect for people with dyslexia – the speech bubbles make it clear who is talking in small chunks of dialogue. A picture helps them to understand what is happening in action.
They are pacy, moving the story along with a frame at a time. You might think because they have fewer words, their value as reading aids is less; in fact, what they can teach is inference – what moved the action from point A to point B?
They are also wonderful for youngsters on the autistic spectrum because facial expressions tend to be exaggerated, making it easier for children to identify which face being pulled equates to telling us what that character is feeling.
Plus, comics are usually funny. Funny means more reading! Check out Dave Pilkey’s Dogman or Captain Underpants series, and I challenge you not to chuckle as much as your child will! (P.S. Pilkey is also a dyslexic Mega-Author!)
Typography is a science; it truly is. Without realizing it, adults subliminally react to typefaces in different ways – we identify ‘business’ fonts, romantic swirls, and cartoonesque ones as being humorous.
The same psychology is true for people with dyslexia, and special fonts have been created which ‘weight’ the letters subtly. It gives just enough shape to help a reader identify which letter (and thus sound) should be said.
No more mixing up of b and d, m or n! Books that use dyslexia-friendly font are becoming more and more common – just search on Amazon! Top tip – you can download a free version of OpenDyslexie and use it on your device.
Surveys suggest that over 50% of people with dyslexia find using a special font or even just a ‘serif’ font helps them with reading. When you are in a bookshop, flick through the books and look out for ones that use ‘serif’ fonts, or even better, weighted fonts like Dyslexie.
For a relatively cheap and simple solution, buy a pack of colored overlays. Thin strips of colored plastic can reduce words ‘moving’ on the page or bring out the letters, so they are clearer to read.
Often, people with dyslexia find a yellow or lightly colored paper is easier to read on; overlays offer a simple remedy to standard white backing. Some books can be ordered as a dyslexia edition printed on yellowed paper as a minimum.
Again, flick through children’s picture books and opt for ones where the text is not on a white background.
Audio and e-books
Remember that it’s not just about the act of reading, but showing that stories can be fun! Many children enjoy listening and following the words along with the page simultaneously. Audible has a wide selection of free books for children to listen to, as well as Kindle/Nook text to speech functions can be selected from accessibility options.
Others like me?
Children can also want to read books featuring characters that have similar challenges to them. Goodreads is an excellent place to find lists of books showcasing, for example, children’s books with dyslexic characters.
‘I get upset seeing them get so frustrated.’
Sometimes, you need to take a step back. Look at reading together as an opportunity to show them that you are on their side. Discuss the story through pictures without reading the words.
Examine the faces of the characters and identify emotions. Help develop other areas of their learning around literacy by extending their vocabulary, such as asking them to think of other words for the one they just battled their way through.
Try and make reading-time fun and interactive, rather than stressful. Set aside a time and space for you to enjoy a book together – it need not be for too long as children lose concentration quickly.
Snuggle up and share a story without pressure, little and often. Research shows children only need 11-15 minutes of reading (out loud) practice a day to increase their fluency.
A considerable number of children’s authors are parents themselves. They write stories because they want to enhance children’s lives, stimulate their imagination. They seek to bring color to a child’s world with illustrations or descriptions which support a story.
A growing number of authors recognize that neurodiversity is commonplace and needs to be catered for. Independent authors are especially good at featuring children who have additional learning challenges, often because they have had to learn the techniques and strategies parents employ.
About the Author
Jan Foster, the author of Mitch and Mooch Try Swimming, writes books that introduce first experiences through story. Children with learning disabilities are close to her heart, and her books are designed with them in mind.
In a comic book style and using dyslexia-friendly font throughout, the Mitch and Mooch Try series of reader books are aimed at 4-7-year-olds.