You can find books for dyslexic kids, but first, you should know what you’re up against.
I once heard a thirty year old man say if given the choice between reading and staring at ants, he would choose staring at ants; and he wasn’t a myrmecolgist (that would be a person who studies ants). He was dyslexic and reading had never become second nature to him.
Dyslexic or not, many kids nowadays would rather stare at ants than read. Many kids don’t like to read. The addictive qualities of most of our gadgets and games are no doubt largely responsible for the marked decline in book reading as a pastime for kids. No bells go off, no one cheers when you turn a page in a quiet room.
And yet, those of us who grew up reading know there is something priceless at stake here. Some of my best friends are books, or at least, the authors who wrote them. And it is through reading that I learned to be friends with myself. I learned to be comfortable with my thoughts, and that it was safe to satisfy my curiosity about the world by reading a book.
So there is something at stake but both technology and dyslexia are formidable opponents. How do you outflank cartoons and video games with something so unassuming as a book? Books for dyslexic kids need to not take themselves too seriously. They need to be friendly. You will want to choose them carefully, with a certain canniness. Nothing less than brilliance will do. Think carefully and proceed with caution, and…keep an open mind.
If a kid doesn’t like to read, what do they like to do? Chances are they like to laugh. There are excellent choices for funny books out there. I’ve seen Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series hit the target with lots of boys who are happy to make reading not such serious business. For girls, there are any number of quirky characters like Junie B Jones (Barbara Park), Ramona Quinby (Beverly Cleary), and Amelia Bedelia (Peggy Parish) for early readers.
There are lots of very smart dyslexic kids who don’t like to read, but they can be coaxed into it with the right book. Many have distinctive interests like basketball, mechanics, or astronomy. These are interests that can often override a reluctance to read. If your son likes sports, try a book by Matt Christopher. If your son won’t pick up a book, he may be persuaded to read a car manual, or subscribe to a magazine about jeeping. And then there’s the “if you can’t fight them, join them” approach to reading. This is where you use the internet to induce reading behavior without actually introducing a book. With a little supervision, most kids can find some topic they want to read about on the world wide web.
Finally, there is the well kept secret that being a child isn’t all sweetness and light. Writers like Roald Dahl, Daniel Handler (of Lemony Snicket fame), not to mention the obvious fantasy writers like J.K. Rowling explore dark things with humor and an imaginative distance which allow kids to process their own “unfortunate events.” Some of these books may be too difficult for your dyslexic reader but consider reading them to your child. Reading to children has its own magical way of opening up an emotional relationship with them.