In recognition of Dyslexia Awareness Month, we look back at two extraordinary Bookshare members who share their perspectives on living – and thriving – with dyslexia, a language-based learning disorder that causes difficulty with reading. Plus, we shine a light on a treasure trove of books featuring characters with learning disabilities to foster inclusion and empathy and engage young readers.
College Professor Embraces Her Unique Strengths
“For me, dyslexia is not something to overcome, but something to embrace, harness, and celebrate,” says Junia Howell, PhD, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh. Even though she is now an accomplished university professor and researcher, Junia failed standardized testing in elementary school, entered high school with a second grade reading level, and despised reading and writing. She relied on accommodations such as audiobooks from Bookshare and continues to use them daily. “I have not overcome my dyslexia, but I have learned how to bend the expectations of the world to enable my capabilities to shine.” Read Junia’s story.
Assistive Technology Builds Competence and Confidence
For LenaMarie, a student in Utqiagvik, Alaska, school was challenging and she often felt like a failure. Diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia, compounded by anxiety, she struggled with reading fluency, comprehension, and processing. An AT Specialist helped her download her assigned reading from Bookshare and use Voice Dream Reader on her iPad to narrate the audio while she follows the highlighted text.
“Using the technology built her confidence, in addition to her competence,” said LenaMarie’s mom. Another bonus was that her anxiety decreased as her academic performance improved. “LenaMarie’s quality of life has improved tremendously, and she is much more confident now that she can read on her own,” says her dad. Read LenaMarie’s story.
Authors and Books that Champion the Dyslexic Experience
Students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia often feel stigmatized and different. One way to help them feel less alone is to engage them with books that feature characters with disabilities. A popular middle grade series featuring a main character with dyslexia is Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan.
“Dyslexic kids are creative, ‘outside-the-box’ thinkers. They have to be, because they don’t see or solve problems the same way other kids do. In school, unfortunately, they are sometimes written off as lazy, unmotivated, rude or even stupid. They aren’t. Making Percy dyslexic was my way of honoring the potential of all the kids I’ve known who have those conditions. It’s not a bad thing to be different. Sometimes, it’s the mark of being very, very talented.”-Rick Riordan, author, Percy Jackson series
- Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
- Thank you, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
- Dyslexia is My Superpower (Most of the Time) by Margaret Rooke
- Here’s Hank: Everybody is Somebody by Henry Winkler
“Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.”– Lynda Mullaly Hunt, author of Fish in a Tree
Schneider Family Book Awards Honor the Disability Experience
What if there was an award that honors authors or illustrators for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences? Administered by the American Library Association and sponsored by Dr. Katherine Schneider, Benetech Board Member, Bookshare is pleased to offer the Schneider Family award winners including these two book featuring characters with learning disabilities:
Books Open Doors to Social Inclusion
For many students with dyslexia, reading below grade level means that they can’t enjoy the same books that their peers are reading. Bookshare and assistive technology provide audio-support to help students with decoding so they can read at their comprehension level and open the doors to social interaction.
Do you know a student who struggles with reading? Bookshare can help.
Bookshare thanks all the educators, parents, caregivers, and other professionals who support learners with dyslexia. With their help these students can reach their full potential.