Supporting Reading Differences

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It would be easy to assume that with several teacher librarians and a few academics in the family, my journey with reading within my extended family has been *seamless* and full of success.  But actually we have a number of family members across the generations for whom reading has been incredibly difficult. My own daughters are fortunate that reading is an absolute pleasure for them and they regularly escape into books for long periods at a time. This is not the experience of every child and Chapter Six of ‘Raising Readers’ is all about reading challenges and how to support young people who read differently. It also includes two stories of students and families I have worked with, which are honest accounts of coming to reading in different ways.

Whether a young person has diagnosed literacy issues or is a hardcore reluctant reader, it is plain hard to be the adult watching from the sidelines and feeling helpless. Literacy issues are complex and multifaceted and, as many families will know, often where there is one diagnosed condition there can be another, further adding to the complexity. I am not a specialist in teaching students who learn to read differently, but in my twenty years as an early years educator and teacher librarian I have worked alongside many individuals as they walked this journey. It is really important to note here that everyone has an individual reading and learning journey.

I am always on the lookout for books or forms of reading which allow children access to story. I’m a big fan of audio books, e-books which can be changed to dyslexic friendly at the click of a button, and graphic novels – graphic novels are often a brilliant gateway into reading for struggling readers.

The titles below are novels which are specifically designed to support reading differences and difficulties such as dyslexia or vision stress or students with English as an additional language. They are aimed at older readers (9ish – 15ish) who have a 7ish+ reading age and while there are many such books on the market, not all are great writing or storytelling. I’ve read at least two books from each author or series below and they are well written, faced paced, engaging and, most importantly, they respect the age of the reader. I highly recommend them.

In fact these are stories for all readers – don’t keep them in a special spot on your library shelves to ‘give to the dyslexic student’ (in fact…please don’t single out any student in that way…I’m sure you wouldn’t). I’ve introduced these to the students at school as ‘really great stories for mature readers (that always suckers them in). They are short and full of action and they are also really cool in that they have a different font and page colour. They are great for some of you who might find reading tricky, but they are also just great books and you should give them a go because sometimes a different font or page setup might actually suit you – regardless of how you read’.

Books Supporting Reading Differences

‘Mission Alert’ Series

I’ve recently come across the Bloomsbury High Low series, in particular the ‘Mission Alert’ titles by Benjamin Hulme-Cross who has written more than 30 books for struggling readers and a number of other darned good books. In ‘Mission Alert’ we meet twin teens (tweens?) Tom and Zilla, who were orphaned when their spy parents were killed during an operation and are normally cooped up at boarding school. But when the only way to get at a target is by using a child, MI5 bring them in to help.

Each title in the series looks at a different mission, I really liked the one with the Russian spy and the nuclear power plant. The series titles can be read in any order and at the conclusion of each there are some quizzes (comprehension time!), facts and other information of interest.

Bloomsbury High Low books encourage and support reading practice by providing gripping, age-appropriate stories for struggling and reluctant readers, those with dyslexia, or those with English as an additional language. Printed on tinted paper and with a dyslexia friendly font, ‘Mission Alert’ is aimed at readers aged 8-15 and has a manageable length (72 pages), lots of black and white illustrations and a reading age of 7+.

Click on title links to purchase from Booktopia or use the buttons below.
(Please note that digital versions may not support a tinted page option – please check before purchase.)

 ‘Hopewell’ High’ series 

The ‘Hopewell High’ series by Jo Cotterill is aimed at readers 11+ who have a reading age of 8+. They are squarely aimed at teens and are full of angst and drama and are total page turners. Printed on tinted paper and with a dyslexia friendly font, ‘Hopewell High’ titles have a manageable length of 80 pages. Jo Cotterill has been an actor, a teacher and a fireworks technician, but she likes writing best. She has published over thirty books for children and young adults, including several critically-acclaimed novels. She writes short books for readers who struggle, helped by her previous experience as a learning support assistant.

Click on title links to purchase from Booktopia or use the buttons below.
(Please note that digital versions may not support a tinted page option – please check before purchase.)

Barrington Stoke Books

Barrington Stoke specialises in ‘cracking reading’ and publishing books that break down the barriers to reading. Barrington Stoke books are designed with:

  • Tinted pages to reduce visual stress, which may be more common in people with dyslexia and can make words seem to jump or dance on the page
  • A special font that helps prevent people with dyslexia confusing letter shapes; spacing to help minimise confusing, blurring and switching
  • Thick paper to make sure words and pictures don’t show through from other pages and confuse the eye
  • Special editing to help minimise barriers to comprehension.

The Barrington Stoke process was developed by dyslexia and speech and language experts in response to research and feedback from thousands of readers on hundreds of their manuscripts over the years. They have been in the industry for a while now and are well respected titles and many of the authors are absolutely top notch/award winning authors. Below are some recent titles or ones I’ve particularly liked. Click on titles to see the reading maturity level.

Use the buttons below to purchase.
(Please note that digital versions may not support a tinted page option – please check before purchase.)

‘Tin Boy’
(reading age 8+, interest age 9-12)

‘A Most Peculiar Toy Factory’
(reading age 8+, interest age 9-12)

‘McTavish Takes the Biscuit’
(reading age age 8+, interest age 9-12)

‘Good Dog McTavish’
(reading age 8+, interest age 9-12)

‘McTavish Goes Wild’
(reading age 8+, interest age 9-12)

(reading age 9+, interest age 12+)

(reading age 9+, interest age 12+)

‘The Tiger on His Back’ 
(reading age 9+, interest age 12+)

‘Tilly’s Promise’ 
(reading age 9+, interest age 12+)

(reading age 9+, interest age 12+)

More Barrington Stoke books for teens can be seen here 

If you have further titles to add or a series I don’t know about, please leave me a comment!



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1 Comment

  1. Natalie on Sep 21, 2019 at 8:17 pm

    I have recently heard about a book by Alyson Gerber called Focused – about a young girl with ADHD. Apparently the portrayal of what it’s like in the mind of a kid with ADHD is really realistic; the story also explores the benefits of support systems and the strengths that kids with this condition often have. It’s on my Christmas list for my daughter, as she’s struggling with a fairly new diagnosis. I thought it might be good for her to read and recognise herself in a character, but to also see that things do get better.

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