Saturday, October 9, 2021

Children's Books Featuring Young People with Dyslexia

In celebration of Dyslexia Awareness month, this week I'm featuring children's books with main character's who have dyslexia or other language based reading challenges. Sharing these stories with students, whether fictional or real, helps them to see kids like themselves represented in literature and to know they are not alone.

Just Ask written by Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court Justice, and illustrated by Rafael Lopez,  is a picture book for ages 4-8. Sonia writes from her own experience with having diabetes, but the additional characters, with a variety of physical and cognitive challenges including dyslexia, are all fictional. The book tells the story of a group of children working together to create a garden. It embraces diversity by encouraging children to "Just Ask" when they wonder about someone who is different from them. The text points out that not all children are comfortable talking about their differences, in which case children can seek answers from parents and teachers. The book includes perspectives from children with a variety of challenges including asthma, blindness, hearing impairment, autism, stuttering, Tourette's Syndrome, Down Syndrome,  and ADHD. Winner of the 2020 Schneider Family Book Award. The Lesson Guide from Read Across American includes resources for teaching kids about disability awareness. The Nora Project offers additional guidance about the difference between showing respectful curiosity versus requiring answers of children who may feel very private about their challenges.

The Truth As Told by Mason Buttle written by Leslie Conner is about a boy who struggles with reading and writing. Taunted by bullies because of his dyslexia, he finds himself in continual conflict with the neighborhood boys at the same time that he is struggling with the mysterious death of his best friend. When his new friend goes missing, he must figure out what has happened. This Middle-Grade Mystery for Grades 4-8 was a National Book Award Finalist in addition to a 2019 Schneider Family Book Award Winner. See the Educator's Guide by Harper Collins.


Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, is the recipient of the 2016 Schneider Family Book award. The story features a bright and creative six grade girl who hides her dyslexia by creating numerous distractions in class. With the help of a new teacher, she is able to embrace her dyslexia and celebrate her talents. Read the Q&A on the author's blog where she discusses her personal struggles with reading. 

Hank Zipzer: The World's Greatest Underachiever, is a series of middle-grade novels based on Henry Winkler's own experiences with dyslexia. Hank is smart, resourceful, funny, and creative, but he struggles with the many ways dyslexia can impact everyday life. The series is for grades 3-7, ages 8-12. The Here's Hank series is based on a younger version of the same boy in second grade and is written for ages 6-9. Read my post about Henry Winkler.

The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan features a main character with ADHD and dyslexia. Characters throughout his books face a variety of challenges. Percy Jackson, the main character of the series by the same name, has ADHD and dyslexia, but in this colorful adventure series, these differences are a sign of his extraordinary powers. He is a demigod, the son of a Poseidon. Just like the other demigods at Camp Half-Blood, he never fit into the ordinary world, especially not at school. Author Rick Riordan, a former classroom teacher, modeled Percy after his own son who has dyslexia and ADHD. In his article with The Guardian, Riordan tells how his son hated books and so each night Rick would tell him stories from Greek mythology. When he ran out of stories, his son asked him to make some up. That's when the author created the Percy Jackson character. 

Thank You, Mr. Falker is a picture book that the author/illustrator, Patricia Polacco, wrote about her early struggles with reading. See the Classroom Resource Guide for the book published by the International Literacy Association. Polacco did a video interview with Reading Rockets where she discussed her reading challenges and the Teacher Who Changed Everything. Mr. Falker was the first one to realize she had dyslexia and he even paid for her reading therapy out of his own pocket. 

See my September 20 Post about Tad Lincoln's Restless Wriggle: Pandemonium and Patience in the President's House and the Q&A with author Beth Anderson as she talks about the evidence that Tad Lincoln may have had speech and learning challenges. My Educator's Guide may be downloaded as a PDF.


My book, Take Me There, is a gritty teen story with mature subject matter for ages 14 and up that explores the correlation between incarceration and learning disability. It is a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers. Dylan Dawson tries to turn his life around after a stint in juvie, but trouble just seems to follow him wherever he goes. On the run from the police and an LA street gang, he goes to Texas looking for his father who is in prison. When they reunite, he learns how his father's struggles with literacy limited his options which led to a life of crime, the same path that Dylan appears to be following. Even so, Dylan refuses to believe that his father is responsible for the murder for which he has been convicted and sets out to find the real killer.

On a related topic, see my previous post about Children's Authors with Dyslexia. Many of them have interviews featured on Reading Rockets. I hope you have the opportunity to share some of these great books with your struggling learners during Dyslexia Awareness Month and all through the year.

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