Lisabeth Emlyn Clark talks about her experience of growing up with dyslexia and how she wishes she’d received the correct support at a younger age to help her manage it. Her personal story has inspired her to write a children’s book about a boy named Harry with dyslexia called I Don’t Like Reading.
As a child I loved looking at books and enjoyed having them read to me. Often with my favourite stories I would stare at the pages for an age, looking at every part of the picture so I could memorize the details while I listened to the words being spoken. When the pages were turned I would look at the picture and hear the first few words, and could finish the sentence before the reader did.
I remember being around 6 or 7 years old when I started to realise that my friends and class mates seemed to finish reading their books so much faster than I did. They all seemed to be on the harder stage books than me and some even on the ‘pupil choice’ stage. I left primary school having never been able to choose my own reading book!
It’s not that I couldn’t read then, or can’t read now; my issue has always been that I try so hard to read the text that it becomes harder to remember what I have just read and this makes books difficult to understand.
During a parent-teacher meeting when I was 8 my mum and dad were told “She isn’t as intelligent as she first appears”, and that “She can tell me the answer verbally but if I ask her to write the answer down she struggles”. My mum’s response to this was “Well is there a reason for that?!”, a question that wasn’t answered until 9 years later when I started an art course aged 16. I had some tests to do on the first day and my tutor took me aside afterwards and asked, “Have you ever been tested for dyslexia? The reason I ask is because the questions you think you’ve been asked are not the questions you have been asked”.
By secondary school I had all but given up reading for ‘enjoyment’ and had started to worry about what I’d have to read and when I’d have to read. For example when I had to answer comprehension papers I knew I’d spend so long reading and re-reading the text that I’d have no time to answer the questions.
I think if my dyslexia had been picked up earlier I would have developed some coping strategies to help me, I would not have had to go through the worry and disappointment of others reading faster than me, or the sadness of knowing I should be able to read or spell a word because children younger than me could. It would also have helped me stay calm, and not get so cross or frustrated with myself. This would probably have meant that I would have been less likely to give up on writing stories or reading, which I loved doing, but just didn’t feel able to do. It would have helped to know that I was dyslexic because I’d have been able to understand that whilst I did have to try really hard to get the same results as others did, it was a good thing, as it would make me a stronger person. It would always mean more to me to achieve something than maybe it would to someone who didn’t struggle, whether it was reading without help or spelling something correctly.
If I had been diagnosed earlier I think the things which I excel at, such as my creativity and ability to look at things differently, would have been recognised and cultivated. I doubt that I would have had such a negative outlook, and got upset so often. I would have known that what I can do is just as important as what I struggle to do. This is what led me to write I Don’t Like Reading. It’s a story for children aged 5 to 11 about a boy named Harry who likes to play football, climb trees and hang out with friends but who, as I’m sure you can guess, doesn’t like reading because he has dyslexia. But with the help of his parents, teachers and special needs co-ordinator, Harry receives the right strategies and encouragement to begin his reading journey. Above all, it’s a fun and easy story which helps children with dyslexia to learn that they are not alone, and that with the correct support they can do just as well as anybody else.
If you would like to read more articles like Lisabeth’s and get the latest news and offers on our Education books, why not join our mailing list? We can send information by email or post as you prefer. You may also be interested in liking our Special Education, PSHE and Early Years Resources Facebook page.