Tag Archives: Dyslexia

Re-Booting Rainbows

An interviewer once asked Roald Dahl: “How is it, when you’re writing for eight-year-olds, you can catch and hold their attention so completely?” Roald looked surprised at the question. “I am eight-years-old,” he explained.

Or whatever age was called for, apparently.

This ability to adjust so readily to a specific target-group is as handy for a children’s author as it is for a class teacher. After all, whatever our chosen destination, we’ll be arriving there alone if we don’t begin where the kids are.

Not that I envisaged any such problem with my story Rainbow Boots. I’d just been re-reading the Brer Rabbit stories of Joel Chandler Harris and was keen to write a ‘trickster’ story of my own. Already, in fact, an idea was forming in my mind. It would be about a kid called Denzil who’s so desperate to share in the latest craze for fancy, rainbow-coloured leisure boots that he’s prepared to lie, to cheat and even to con his best friend Nadeem to get hold of a pair. Clearly, a task for my long-ago top-junior persona if ever there was one!

What could possibly go wrong?

Quite a lot as it turned out. Because, for some reason, my long-ago top-junior persona kept slipping the name of Len Shackleton into my mind. Len who, do you ask? Exactly! I’d barely given Len a thought since my fledgling days as a football fan. I’d read at a sitting his autobiography The Crown Prince of Soccer– a great title for a book about a player who was as famous for his jokes, on and off the pitch, as he was for his football skills. It was Len who back-heeled a penalty kick into the corner of the net having sent the goalie the wrong way. It was Len who often used a corner flag to make a return pass to himself and leave an opponent bamboozled. It was Len who once brought a match to a complete stop by putting his foot on the ball while he pretended to check his watch and comb his hair before he casually took a shot at goal (he scored, of course).

Now there was a trickster to reckon with!

Not that Len’s antics impressed everyone. Despite his brilliance, he won only five international caps for his country because “England play at Wembley not The London Palladium” as one of the England selectors snorted.

All lovely stuff for a story, yes. Pity it wasn’t the story I was trying to write. This was about a fashion victim not a celebrity soccer player. Having got all my ducks in a row – the characters, the primary school setting, the pace and shape of the story-line – the last thing I needed was a show-off like Len Shackleton kicking my tale into touch.

Wait, though.

Suddenly, out of the blue, another of Len’s flicks-and-tricks popped into my head. It was a routine trick so eye-catching it became one of his trademarks. When he left the dressing room after a match, he often entertained the fans who were waiting for his autograph by dropping a coin onto his instep, flicking it from one foot to the other, keepsie-upsie style, and finished off by flipping it into the top pocket of his club blazer. What a climax that would make! And what a way to point up the difference between a pair of boots that were strictly for decoration and those that were made for playing.

Hmm…

9781472960795

Which is how, with a bit of careful re-writing on my part, a Len Shackleton figure,  under a different name, makes a guest appearance in Rainbow Boots after all. For me, it’s a reminder of how mysterious and unpredictable the writing process is. We should never forget that forward planning is fine up to a point. But we must always allow for an enlivening change of direction – not least if it springs from our own childhood experience. Wily old Roald didn’t need a reminder about this. He seems to have known it deep in his bones!

 

Chris Powling’s has written more than sixty books for children, and his new book Rainbow Boots publishes on 7th February.

 

100 Ideas for Dyslexia

Shannon Green and Gavin Reid explore the thinking behind splitting the best-selling 100 Ideas on Dyslexia into two books for Primary and Secondary teachers: 

We have been involved in dyslexia and teaching for many years and between us we have experience across the full age range.  For us, it was natural that the popular 100 Ideas book on Dyslexia should be separated into 2 books: 100 Ideas for primary and 100 for secondary.  Both sectors offer significant challenges in meeting the social, emotional and educational needs of young people with dyslexia.  Although some of the strategies are generic across the age range, such as ‘mind maps’ and ‘mnemonics’ and paired and reciprocal reading, there are many other approaches and strategies that are specific to each of the sectors.  It was natural therefore to create this division.

We have introduced a new section in the Primary book on nursery and early years. There is no doubt this is a crucial area as getting it right at this stage can pave the way for more successful interventions later on and a happier outcome for all – children, parents and teachers.

There are specific challenges inherent in secondary school, which often have an achievement and examination focus.  The nature of secondary schools can be off putting for the young person with dyslexia and therefore we have included a section on self-esteem and motivation.  We have also focused on effective learning, which includes strategies that can be used across the whole curriculum. This includes becoming an independent learner and also ideas on study skills, note-taking and revision strategies as well as time management.

Having said that, we also appreciate that secondary schools are very much subject orientated and we have included strategies for English, History, Geography, Maths, Music, Drama and Art, General Science, Biology, Additional language learning, Physical Education and Food Technology and Textiles.    We hope that these ideas will provide insights into how to deal with dyslexia at secondary school while also acting as a springboard to both develop their own ideas and to disseminate information on dyslexia across the whole school.

We have endeavored to incorporate explanations and a rationale for the ideas in this book as we appreciate that the book will be used by experienced practitioners and subject teachers who may have less knowledge of dyslexia.

From our experience, a ‘dip in’ and accessible book is always welcomed by the busy teacher and we hope that will be the case with these two new 100 Ideas books.  We are extremely grateful for the positive feedback we have received in person and through emails from teachers who have found the previous editions of 100 Ideas extremely useful.

Ultimately this helps the teacher, the parents and of course the student him/herself and can make the sometimes challenging ‘educational track’ more accessible and more pleasurable for young people with dyslexia.

 

What is it like to have dyslexia? An interview.

This week it is Dyslexia Awareness Week and the theme this year is ‘Making Sense of Dyslexia’. I’m a commissioning editor in the education team here at Bloomsbury and part of my job is creating books for children who struggle with reading. I spend quite a lot of time talking and thinking about what children and teenagers with dyslexia or other reading difficulties might like, what might grab their attention, what makes reading hard for them and what could encourage them to keep trying even though they find it hard.

But I (and I suspect most people who work in publishing) wasn’t one of those children who struggle with reading so I thought that in Dyslexia Awareness Week it might be good to hear from one of those people (instead of me)!

My nephew, Sam, is a typical 10-year-old boy. He has been better than me at all sports since he was about 4, he’ll be taller than I am in a frighteningly short time, and he is one of the kindest people I know. He is also quite severely dyslexic so I asked him some questions about what that’s like for him.

What can you remember when you first found out you were dyslexic?
I struggled at school and so I had a test to see if I was dyslexic. I felt stressed and didn’t know what to think of myself.

What did it make you think or feel?
I was scared that people would notice that I was different, but I got used to it. People don’t worry about it, so neither do I.

Do you think there are some good things about being dyslexic?
It’s hard for me to tell what I get from dyslexia and what is just me. My dyslexia is part of who I am.

Are there things that you find particularly hard at school?
If I’m set a long piece of writing I struggle with my spellings and I struggle when I am under pressure.

What do you think you might like to do when you are a grown up?
When I grow up I would like to be an engineer because I like maths and science or I would also like to play sports professionally.

What are your favourite books and stories?
The Harry Potter series, Diana Wynne Jones’s series about Chrestomanci, and the Percy Jackson books. (Sam’s mum and dad would have read these to him – they are too long and hard for him to manage without support)

My sister (Sam’s mum) told me that it is impossible to tell which of Sam’s many excellent qualities are because of his dyslexia and I think that’s right. As Sam says, “My dyslexia is part of who I am.”

This Dyslexia Awareness Week it is important that we keep in mind the needs of people who have dyslexia. I hope that we can work together to make amazing stories accessible (in whatever form that may need to be) for children and teenagers with dyslexia, as well as making sure teachers have the right training and resources in place to support them. Ultimately, I hope that all young people with dyslexia can grow up to become engineers or sportsmen or whatever else they want to be!

Visit our website to see some of our High/Low fiction for struggling or reluctant readers.