Summer reading survival tips for dyslexics

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Katie Harnett illustration

For me, summer vacation = summer reading.

But….I’ve got way too many books to read this summer, and not enough time. And I’m starting to freak out about it. Like many dyslexics, reading is something I dearly want to do — but find very tiring. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not always a pleasure to read on vacation.

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Author interview: Mary Avery Kabrich

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When I’m writing, I usually listen to one song on repeat. Working on this interview with psychologist and writer Mary Avery Kabrich, I have been listening to “Chosen” by Rose Cousins:

“Give me a sign, a photo, a map
Something to go by
How am I supposed to know
What I’m supposed to look like”

Mary’s novel Once Upon A Time A Sparrow has become that sign, photo, map for my own dyslexic journey. As a child, I didn’t have any role models who struggled to learn, let alone a novel with a dyslexic female heroine like Maddie. As Mary says in our interview, “I knew something was wrong with me,” but I didn’t know quite what it was. That is changing for our children, and it’s partly because we are bravely telling our stories.

I was thrilled to compare notes on dyslexia with Mary: how it has impacted her reading, her education, her career, and her mental health; how she has overcome challenges to become a psychologist and an award-winning author, and ultimately to simply believe in herself. Drawing from her extensive experience with the school system, she suggests a better way to teach children with learning differences. I encourage you to read her book — Once Upon A Time A Sparrow.

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Book review: Learning to fly in Once Upon A Time A Sparrow

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Have you ever looked up to see one little bird flying out of sync from the rest of her flock? Have you ever wondered why she is falling behind? And if she will find her way back?

Psychologist and author Mary Avery Kabrich explores a similar question in her novel Once Upon A Time A Sparrow, but as it relates to children with dyslexia. Kabrich wants to know, and more importantly, wants the world to know, “why some children learn to read effortlessly as a bird learns to fly, while others flap their wings until they almost break, and still end up in a nosedive.”

In Kabrich’s award-winning novel, the “sparrow” is a nine-year old girl named Maddie — a bright, dyslexic spark who is diagnosed as minimally brain damaged.

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It’s 1967, and Maddie is stuck in the “sparrow” group (for slow readers) at school. She is pulled out of her favourite class for special reading instruction, which is taught in a storage closet, no less. Her teacher, Mrs. Zinc, discourages her from pursuing her dreams: “if you can’t read, you can’t write.” She is publicly humiliated by her know-it-all classmate Paulette. Her loving parents worry over her, but don’t know how to help. But there is much good to balance the bad: she finds support from a special education teacher named Ms. Ellen and strength in family, spirituality and her own imagination.

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David Flink’s “Thinking Differently” educates and empowers

51n4HUrp8ALDavid Flink’s Thinking Differently (2014) is my favourite “parent/self help” guide to dyslexia and learning disabilities.

And it’s the only book I’ve read that speaks to me both as parent and as a person with dyslexia.

In tone and in content, the book gives a positive, practical and empowering approach to parenting, studying and living with dyslexia and ADHD.

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Telling our own story/ies

“We deserve a chance…not to be defined by what we struggle with and what we are not, but to be seen as whole people with a mix of strengths and weaknesses. We deserve a chance to add to the narrative on dyslexia that historically had been dominated by (albeit well meaning) non-dyslexics.”

Sarah Fearn, editor’s preface, everything is spherical (2014)

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I sense a change is coming. Our voices are getting louder. Whether it’s on social media or through storytelling or advocacy work, people with dyslexia want/need to tell their own stories.

This is no small thing.

This is an act of bravery, even defiance, in a world that presumes to tell us who we are and how we feel; that we are broken, where we are broken, and how we can (or can’t) be “fixed.” This comes from the strangest places. Not just from the trolls, but even the people who aim to help. So many labels, but very little real understanding.

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Summer reading

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The Dyslexic Library is on vacation, and we’re reading:

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Relish: My life in the kitchen (2013) – – graphic novel by Lucy Knisley – our number one pick of the summer!!! – tells the story of a woman’s (the author) life, and lessons learned about food, cooking and life – she was raised in a very foodie environment and grew up to take a completely different path – includes recipes – beautiful illustrations and beautiful story – recommended for teenagers and adults – writer has web comic (Review by SH & AMB) Continue reading

Book review: Secret Code Actions™ – Parent Edition

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When my copy of Secret Code Actions™ — Parent Edition arrived, it barely fit into my mail box. That’s a good thing. At 370 pages, it’s wonderful weightiness is matched by the depth and breadth of its content — it is the ultimate guide to understanding and deciphering the English alphabetic “code.”

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Book review: On reading My Dyslexia, or five reasons I love this book

“This much is clear: The mind of the dyslexic is different from the minds of other people. Learning that my problem with processing language wasn’t stupidity seemed to take most of my life.” ~Philip Schultz, My Dyslexia

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My Dyslexia (2011) by Philip Schultz is on the top of my reading list for 2017. I’ve already read it a few times, underlining the good bits and reading it out loud to whoever will listen. And I will read it again, and again, and again.

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Happy new year, happy reading!

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They say knowledge is power, so I’ve got quite the stack of books to read in 2017. I’ve got memoir, psychology, science, self-help and non-fiction. The subject? Mostly about dyslexia and brain science, with a strong serving of inspirational stories. I may not be the woman who changes her brain, but I’m down with right-brainers ruling the future!

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