It's Dyslexia Awareness Week, folks. It's the perfect time to consider our dyslexic friends and their very different reading abilities – and in my case, interview one of them!
I must start by saying how much I feel for – and admire – those with more limited reading capabilities. I cannot imagine struggling to read, in fact, I suffer from the opposite...
Below is a transcript of a nice chat I had with my friend, Ryan. He is one of those unusual humans who does not have any social media accounts BUT his girlfriend, my little sis, does. Here is her Instagram and Twitter (he features a lot in her photos, obvs!).
To begin our little chat, I gave Ryan a copy of Non Pratt's 'Unboxed' (my review can be found here!), a recently released shorter novel published by the utter babes at Barrington Stoke – a fantastic publisher who call themselves 'the home of super-readable books'. They work hard to make sure those with differing reading abilities are able to enjoy literature as much as possible. They use simpler fonts, wider spacing, tinted pages, and even thicker paper in order to minimise the confusion for dyslexic readers.
Ryan immediately noticed the thicker pages, saying he sometimes finds it difficult when he is able to see through pages – the lettering and sentences can get muddled.
My first and most burning question was how Ryan actually saw words printed on a page. I felt so awkward asking, but he was kind enough to describe as best he could.
'It's like...a block. Just a solid block. The words are all crammed in close together. Yeah, it's hard to separate.'
This is easier, though. This book [Unboxed]. The line spaces are good, and the page thickness helps a lot.'
I then asked, as he had his phone nearby, if he finds it easier maybe to read off a screen.
'It's easier, I think. I do sometimes take longer texting--'
This is where my little sis interjects: 'yeah, he does.'
'---but generally it's okay. Like, I can read a page of something on my phone.'
I was interested in something I'd heard about certain colours being better to read - as in, if a word is written or typed in a different colour, it's easier for some dyslexics to read. I asked Ryan if he found some colours more readable.
'I don't think I did, but when we were asked in class if anyone was dyslexic and needed the lessons written on the board in a different colour, that was good. I know it helps others.'
Touching on the topic of school made me think back to when I first realised dyslexia was a thing, like, at all, and that it was actually quite serious. This realisation came about when some of my peers in classes would be excused during a test - they'd sit outside the classroom at a separate desk, or sometimes in another room/office altogether, and take their test with a supervisor of sorts. I asked Ryan if he ever had that, a special consideration and appropriate allowances made.
'Yeah, I took tests separately. You could choose if you had someone with you, too. Like a teacher or an assistant - they'd read out questions for you if you wanted. And then I got extra time as well. There were a few of us who got put in another room.'
'So was that nice?' I asked at this point. 'Like, a little crew? I'd like that.'
'Yeah, we all knew each other. We all got on.'
As we wrapped up our chat, I had to ask my friend when it was he discovered he was dyslexic. And then how long it took to be properly acknowledged. I personally know of one girl at my school who was considered a bit batty because she claimed, at 14 years old, that she couldn't read. She would actually cry at times because we'd all be storming ahead with the assigned texts and she'd still be stuck on the first page. Nobody knew what it was that held her back, that troubled her - then she was effectively diagnosed as dyslexic. And it all made sense!
However, I know that for many it is not that quick. Sometimes it takes years to figure out what's up. A somewhat scary example can be found in Henry Winkler, the beloved Fonz - he only found out that he was dyslexic because his step-son needed help reading and writing as a teen.
Ryan had this to say about finding out...
'Okay, so I found out I was dyslexic in, I think, primary school. I remember being taken out of class by some people with my teacher and they said I had to do some tests and then that's when they just said I did have it.
'I got a bit of help in primary school but when I got to secondary school they didn't really help me at all; they said they were more concerned about the kids that had it and misbehaved all the time, whereas I just kept quite quiet so they didn't really bother with me...
'The teachers knew in primary school so I'm guessing my family knew at that point, too.'
Thank you so much, Ryan, for letting me get nosy about your dyslexia. It's opened my eyes even more to how it affects some people - and how we must help!
The heroes this week are Book Life, the school books publishers, and of course a big shout-out to Barrington Stoke once again. Another loving holla at Amber @ The Mile-Long Bookshelf for getting me involved in this, she's a bit of a superstar tbh. See her vlog about this week!