Stoke Books In Depth At Stoke Books we are often asked for advice on dyslexia, struggling readers and the way in which our books can help. Red House sent us some really fantastic questions covering all of these topics. We’ve decided to share our answers to these questions and more. We hope that these help other booksellers, parents, children and learning professionals in the struggle to overcome reading problems.
Dyslexia What is Dyslexia? Dyslexia is broad term covering a number of learning difficulties that can affect the ability to read, write and spell. Dyslexia may affect speech and language in general, and also math, motor and organizational skills. Dyslexia can affect anyone, regardless of their general ability level. A common perception of dyslexia is that it’s a case of very able people who are held back by a difficulty with the written word. In fact, people of any ability can suffer from dyslexia and can benefit from support. Reading problems should always be tackled.
How would a parent be able to spot that dyslexia might be affecting their child? Rather like parents, Stoke Books is not in the business of assessing specific learning difficulties. What we do as a publisher is what we’d advise parents to do - draw on expertise. If you believe that any issue is affecting your child’s education, then it’s vital that you discuss it with your school in order to establish whether a problem exists, the nature of the problem if so, and any additional support required.
If a parent was worried about dyslexia, what steps should they take to get help? In the first instance, you should speak to your child’s teacher. Do try to approach the teacher with the assumption that he or she is on your side – that way you have the best chance of working together.
Is there a definitive way of getting a diagnosis of dyslexia for my child? It’s helpful not to think in terms of “getting a diagnosis” – that implies something of a foregone conclusion. Look at it instead as three questions for you and you child’s school to explore together: • Is there a problem/what indicates that there may be a problem? • If there is a problem, what is causing it? • What can be done to help tackle the problem? These questions should give you a constructive framework for discussions. It may be necessary to involve other professionals in the discussion further down the line, but it’s important to work with your child’s teacher in the first instance to make sure that problems are properly identified. Some indicators of dyslexia can also be indicators of other issues, or indeed indicators of nothing at all. Page 1 of 4 Stoke Books In Depth
What is the average age for dyslexic readers being diagnosed? We would advise thinking in terms of individuals and not averages, as averages have no bearing on individual situations. There is some evidence that girls are better at concealing reading difficulties and may present later than boys.
Is dyslexia becoming more common or are people just more aware of it? People are becoming more aware of it.
Is getting a diagnosis a very expensive process? Stoke Books doesn’t deal with dyslexia assessments so we can’t comment on that.
Are more boys than girls affected? It was once thought that this was the case but now we think that girls are just presenting later. Bernadette McLean of the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Center believes that girls may be better at hiding their difficulties and so manage to stay under teachers’ radars for longer. But as they get older and their schoolwork becomes more challenging, their difficulties become more obvious. Bernadette tells us that by age 13 the Helen Arkell Center sees as many girls for assessment as boys.
Is it possible for a dyslexic reader to “catch up” so that they have an average reading ability by a particular age? Different things are possible for different learners – dyslexics are individuals like anyone else. Learning targets and expectations need to be based on both the individual and their circumstances.
Parents and Support How can parents help and support dyslexic readers at home? Parents can support in lots of ways. One of the most useful is to keep children motivated by helping them to see reading as a fun activity and worth the effort. Here are our top tips: • There’s no “right” time to stop reading to your child – keep doing it for as long as they enjoy it. It brings stories to life and can help develop memory, vocabulary and listening skills. • Do everything you can to help children see themselves as “readers” and books as good things. Give books as gifts, put a bookshelf in their room and try to make sure they see the rest of the family reading for pleasure, too. • Try shared reading – follow the text with your finger as you read, so your child can look at the words too. Gradually you can encourage them to read a few words themselves. • When your child is reading to you, get them to pause when they can’t read a word, and after a second read it out for them. If you make them stop and work it out they’ll lose track of the story. • A quick way of working out if a book is too difficult for your child is to ask them to look at one page and cover any words they can’t read with a finger. If there are more than five, they will struggle with it. • Encourage children to make pictures in their heads as they read to help with understanding. Talk about how you both picture the story, characters, setting and so on, and draw their attention to illustrations. • Look out for ‘high-low’ books, where content appropriate to the actual age of readers has been edited to suit a lower reading age. Struggling readers are easily embarrassed and de-motivated, so Page 2 of 4 Stoke Books In Depth
steer clear of books aimed at younger children. • Graphic novels can engage reluctant readers but be aware that these may make reading harder for dyslexic children as text tends to be chopped up and written in block capitals. You may need to help with reading these if they are keen. • Try not to judge their book choices or force books on them – they know what they like better than you do. If they give a book a try and don’t like it, don’t insist they finish it, and try to keep a smile on your face if they insist on reading the same book over and over. There’s comfort in familiarity and children with poor recall may find multiple readings helpful.
Stoke Books Why are Stoke Books better for dyslexic readers? Our books are entirely designed around the needs of dyslexic readers: • Many dyslexic readers are affected by visual stress, which is compounded by high contrast like black text on white paper. We use a special tinted background to reduce stress and help our readers. • Our paper is heavy, so readers who struggle with word recognition don’t also have to deal with visual interference from words printed on the other side of the page. • We have a special font which has lots of specific accessibility features such as simple letter shapes and varied letter heights. All of these features help dyslexic readers to “track” the words. • We edit our books specially to make the language easier to cope with, while retaining the author’s voice. Our edit process has been informed by dyslexia experts and the input of thousands of our readers over the years.
How many Stoke Books titles are there and what ages of children are they suitable for? There are currently 35 Stoke Books titles in print. Our interest ages vary from 11 to 18 and our reading ages from approximately 2nd to 4th grade. All of our titles have also been assessed for Lexile Levels. We are working hard to publish more books under our Stoke Books imprint.
It looks as though there are some well-know children’s authors writing for Stoke Books. We are incredibly lucky to have been able to enlist the support of so many well-known authors. We were quite tickled recently when one of the well-known authors on our list told us he knew he’d really “made it” once we asked him to write for us! On a serious note, we firmly believe that self-confidence is a hugely important factor in overcoming reading problems. Self-confidence can take a knock when readers perceive themselves to be excluded from the mainstream. That’s why we publish major mainstream authors as opposed to low-reading age specialists – that way our readers needn’t feel they’re any different from their peers.
Do Stoke Books have a range of subjects to interest all readers whether they’re girls, boys, Sci-Fi buffs, into fashion, love horror fiction, etc? Yes. We believe that dyslexic or struggling readers deserve the same range of books as their more confident peers and so we aim for a broad variety of genres and also to reflect market trends – young readers tend to be very conscious of what’s “hot” and want to be in on the action.
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Reluctant Readers Do Stoke Books also publish books for reluctant readers? How are these different to books for dyslexic readers? Yes and no! Everything we publish is dyslexia-friendly – we don’t publish anything different for reluctant readers. That’s because we believe that anything that helps a dyslexic reader to read better helps any reader. Our books work for reluctant readers and also for able readers who want a quick fiction fix. The Daily Telegraph summed this up last year in their review of Sterling and the Canary by Andy Stanton: “Aimed at the pre-teen market, it is published by the excellent Stoke Books publishers and labelled ‘dyslexia friendly’ so it has all the line spacing and friendly print to assist struggling readers. But what is best – for any reader – it is that Sterling And The Canary is a highly readable and very funny tale.”
What suggestions do you have for parents who want to encourage reluctant readers? • First off, try not to get stressed. Making an issue of reading can set up a greater resistance. • Have a look at the reading habits of the rest of the family. Is there a role model for reading for the reluctant reader? Boys often don’t see their fathers or older brothers reading. • Try not to judge their book choices – any reading is better than no reading at all. And don’t just think in terms of books – football results, sports magazines, comic strips and so on all count as reading.
Happy Reading! The Stoke Books team
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