The Literacy Nest

12 Children's Books With Dyslexia Characters You Can't Miss

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Children's Books With Dyslexia Characters

Books About Dyslexia

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Raise a hand if you know someone with dyslexia. You should have your hand up by now. It's Dyslexia Awareness Month and I am all about spreading awareness!

If you love children's book as much as I do, you know how important it is for kids to have books where they can identify with the characters. Dyslexia readers are no exception. They need to know they aren't the only ones having a hard time in school or other life circumstances.

If you are a parent or a teacher, it is CRITICAL for you to step into the shoes of a dyslexic reader to know what they experience. When we do, we build empathy for children, which we could all use a bit more of these days, am I right? SO... I have an amazing list of children's books which feature dyslexia characters or discuss learning differences.

NOTE: I'm listing them in order by picture book all the way up to more advanced text for older readers. Choose them at your own discretion. Let's begin!

1. Your Fantastic Elastic Brain: Kids will love reading about how their brain works in this fabulous picture book. This award winning book will give your kids plenty of food for thought! ;)

2. It's Called Dyslexia This a picture book from the Live and Learn series. It's a self help book for younger readers, filled with practical tips that kids can think about and actually USE right away. There's a nice information section at the end with tips for families.

3. Tom's Special Talent: People with dyslexia have tons of special talents. Kids need to know that there are real strengths to be found even though they may struggle with reading, etc. This book helps your child find their special talent, recognize it and see the beauty when you share it with others.

4. The Alphabet War:  The main character, Adam, struggles with reading. When he is finally diagnosed in third grade, things start to look up for him. Children will identify with Adam's inner struggles with learning things like the letter of the alphabet.

5. Thank You, Mr. Falker: Written by the beloved dyslexic author, Patricia Polacco, this autobiographical picture book narrative will tug at your heartstrings, but truly get children to see how how painful teasing and bullying can be for someone with any kind of a learning difference. Mr. Falker is a true hero in this book! As a side note, I read this book to my third graders within the first month of school every year. There are life lessons taught in this book that cannot be missed.

6. Hank Zipzer Series: Henry Winkler has created a series of hilarious chapter books featuring the dyslexic character, Hank Zipzer. Kids will love the many mishaps humorous Hank gets into while navigating childhood. Kids can REALLY relate to Hank. Trust me. For younger readers, Winkler has written an early reader series of Hank Zipzer books. I highly recommend both!

7. My Gift Of Difference: "It's a difference, not a disadvantage." 12 year old Jordan has written a self help book, fill with tips that will inspire and empower your child on their own journey. Jordan gives inspirational talks all over the country. Be sure to check out her Instagram page!

8.Two Minute Drill: Calling all sports fans! Mike Lupica has written some great sports fiction for kids over the years. Sixth grader, Scott is the new kid in school and faces a lot of challenges, including having to stand up to the team quarterback. Upper elementary and middle school, sports-minded kids will enjoy this one.

9. My Name is Brain Brian: The author takes time to explain what dyslexia is within the context of this upper elementary chapter book, which is so helpful. Kids will make deep connections with Brian. I would recommend siblings of kids with dyslexia read this one to develop their sense of empathy.

10. Fish In A Tree: This book became an instant hit with teachers and students everywhere. I read it with in an online book group with some other Orton-Gillingham teachers and tutors, and we fell in love with it. We feel every one of Ally's struggles right along with her, but you will triumph at her developing confidence. Keep the tissues handy. This could be a read aloud for kids probably as young as 4th grade.

11. Percy Jackson Series: Rick Riordan's series of books focused on mythical characters has exploded in children's literature. Start with The Lightning Thief, the first book if you are new to the series. Percy truly does find out he possesses some unique abilities in the first book. For your adventure seeking kids, this series fits the bill. And he added study of Greek mythology is a bonus.

12. Looking For Heroes: Aidan Colvin was on a mission. Write to 100 successful dyslexics and find out their secrets to success. You will be just as surprised as Aidan is at the amount of replies and the advice he receives! Aidan is sure to share classroom tips with kids as well. Great for middle schoolers, or high schoolers, or college students.

And there you have it! What a list of truly inspiring books for children. I am so convinced that you and your children or students will enjoy them, that I am giving YOU a chance to win EVERY TITLE listed above. That's right! 12 children's books will be shipped to you if you are the big winner. In honor of Dyslexia Awareness Month, I am giving them all away! All you have to do is enter in the Rafflecopter below. (Sorry, due to shipping costs, I am only accepting entries for US residents.) You'll see it below my name at the end of this post. I will announce the BIG WINNER on October 26, 2017!

Books About Dyslexia

Books About Dyslexia

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Top 6 Picture Books For Building Phonological Awareness

The Top 6 Picture Books For Building Phonological Awareness

 (This post contains affiliate links.)

Building phonological and phonemic awareness can happen anywhere at anytime. We know that beneath the umbrella term, phonological awareness, phonemic awareness is the most important skill to work on for early reading success.
Phonemic Awareness

Struggling readers may have poor phonological awareness; therefore, it is SO critical to work on that in the early grades. But guess what? Phonemic awareness activities don't have to be limited to the classroom!  In the car, in a waiting room, or waiting in the lunch line. You have the choice to make activities as simple or as elaborate as your energy and your student's or even your own child's needs dictate. One of the easiest and most natural ways to work on phonemic awareness is through read alouds.

Here are a few of my favorites!

  1.  The B Book by Stan & Jan Berenstain: This book is brought to us by the author of The Berenstain Bears. Although it is not about the Bear family, the illustrations nevertheless have a familiar quality. It is a cumulative story in which each word and phrase that is added begins with the letter b. Big brown bear, blue bull and beautiful baboon have all sorts of b adventures. The story becomes more and more zany as it goes on. In addition to providing a fun tongue twister, this story is wonderful for isolating the first sound in words, introducing alliteration and making predictions. One of the most powerful ways to use this book would be to have a student write and illustrate their own page with a character and descriptive words and actions that begin with b. A class project could be to make a similar story with another letter of the alphabet. 
  2.  Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw: When a bunch of sheep go on an adventure in a jeep, hilarity ensues. I’m sure your students will agree after reading this that Sheep are terrible drivers! This delightful favorite is wonderful because it lends itself to work across so many different levels and ages. From a preschool read aloud, to a first grade independent story, to an upper level examination of spelling patterns, there is more than meets the eye to this charming book. A simple rhyming structure with many rhyming pairs, this book also has a dizzying number of long e words. Because there are so many words with similar vowel sounds, this story lends itself to activities with auditory discrimination. What rhymes with sheep? Sheet, feet or heap? Are feed and feet the same? How are they different? We know that children need experience not only segmenting phonemes but manipulating them. Can your students identify the sound that has changed to make a word chain? Or build a word chain themselves using words from the story? The humorously illustrated sheep lend themselves to games and activities. 

  3.  Miss Mary Mack by Mary Ann Hoberman: You may remember the hand-clapping game that forms the basis of this story from your own elementary days. A little girl (Miss Mary Mack) befriends an elephant that jumped the fence in her backyard. This story is just waiting for some brave soul to sing it and play a hand-clapping game to go along. There is a reason that phonemic awareness and music go hand-in-hand. The rhythmic nature of the story lends itself to an exploration of syllabication. Playing a hand-clapping game allows the children to feel the beat of the words, something that can be particularly helpful for kids that struggle with hearing syllables. The repetition of the rhyme also provides an extra layer of support for struggling readers. With plenty of opportunities for alliteration, the short a sound, and the –ack rime, the story has a great deal of potential as a powerful phonological awareness read aloud. 
  4.  Runny Babbit by Shel Silverstein: This book of poems is centered around the character of Runny Babbit, but each poem is able to stand alone. This is not a read aloud you want to attempt without practice! It is trickier than it looks and harder to read than it sounds. The poems in the book are made up of “spoonerisms.” This word trick swaps the onset of two different words. So, “silly book” becomes “Billy sook”. This book is a great jumping off point for a more detailed exploration of onset & rime and learning to manipulate phonemes. It lends itself to writing activities and extensions and also provides some really good decoding work to “solve” the mystery phrase. I find myself wondering if an OG student may actually have an advantage when playing with words in this way because of all of the decoding practice they get. Children without learning difficulties may experience frustration in trying to wrap their mouths around these silly poems that lends itself to a discussion of compassion and learning differences as well. As is sometimes the case with Shel Silverstein, there are a couple of incidents of mild potty humor. 
  5. The Cat Who Wore a Pot on Her Head by Jan Slepian and Ann Seidler: This vintage picture book may be hard to find, but it is worth the hunt. When Bendemolena finds a pot, she puts it on her head and finds the peace and quiet delightful. Her home is a busy and noisy place with all her brothers and sisters. However, when Mama cat goes to take care of a sick friend and Bendemolena finds herself in the role of messenger, listening takes on a new importance and things go hilariously amuck. This book is longer than many of the other phonemic awareness read alouds and also lends itself nicely to comprehension activities. What immediately resonates with me is that listening to, recalling and sequencing sounds is the foundation for all of the other phonemic awareness activities. This book so beautifully illustrates the importance of that. In addition, the nonsense words that Bendemolena thinks she hears are a great jumping off point for activities using rhyme, onset-rime and manipulating phonemes. Like the Runny Babbit, the use of nonsense words lays transparent the link between decoding and phonological awareness. 
  6.  Huck Runs Amuck by Sean Taylor: Huck the mountain goat LOVES flowers. The problem is that all the other goats like flowers too and there aren’t many left. But, Huck is determined to eat some delicious flowers. He goes to great lengths to try to get a mouthful of flowers. This book is full of rhythm, rhyme and repetition, all as part of a delightfully illustrated story with beautiful rich language. There are opportunities for working on alliteration, rhyme, syllables, descriptive writing and vocabulary. This book is meaty enough to use for multiple phonemic awareness activities as well as comprehension skills. Your students will be delighted as they follow along with Huck’s adventures. 

The possibilities are endless when thinking of new and exciting ways to use favorite stories. These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg. I hope you have as much fun reading and learning with these books as I do.

Are you looking for more phonological awareness practice? Grab TONS of teaching tips and strategies in my email series. You'll receive a fun freebie when you do. SIGN UP HERE.

If you are seeking comprehensive phonological awareness curriculum for your reading intervention program, LOOK HERE for my Phonological Awareness Growing Bundle. 

Phonological Awareness Curriculum

Thanks for reading today! I will have more book suggestions soon. If you have any, feel free to add some titles in the comments. Have a great day!

Phonemic Awareness Books


Top Five Tips For Communicating With Families of Children With Dyslexia

Friday, September 29, 2017

Dyslexia Support

The Top Five Tips For Communicating With Families of Children With Dyslexia

Imagine you are a parent who has a meeting with her child’s teacher. Arriving at the school, she arrives in the office five minutes early for the appointment. The secretary directs her to sign in and take a seat. Suddenly, the advocate parent feels like she is 8 years old, waiting outside the principal’s office, wondering what her punishment is going to be. As the minutes tick by, her confidence fades and she begins to feel self conscious, a grown woman sitting in a chair probably designed for children. As the meeting begins, the parent enters a room in which she is outnumbered by unfamiliar faces seated around a big table, and takes a seat, not sure what to expect.

This is a typical experience for many parents. It isn’t hard to imagine the stress and discomfort that the mother in this example is feeling, especially when you realize that this has all occurred before the parent has had an opportunity to hear any information, ask any questions or participate in any decisions. Even a teacher feels out of her element when seated on the other side of the table.

For parents working with a private tutor, while communication may be less formal, many parents still feel nervous and well outside their comfort zone. For teachers and tutors of struggling readers, it is important to remember that dyslexia is often hereditary. It is highly likely that at least one child you teach has a parent that has had difficulty with reading or spelling. They may even have undiagnosed dyslexia themselves. 

Here are a few tips to make parent communication more effective and comfortable for both of you!

  1.  Think outside the box. What is the best way to communicate with this particular parent? Email? Phone? Text message? or handwritten note? Take into consideration how they choose to reach out to you. When in doubt, talking face to face is best.
  2. Avoid using “teacher lingo” when talking to a parent. Try to say what you want to convey in plain English. Using examples sometimes makes it easier to avoid using specialized vocabulary. Instead of saying that “Johnny is learning consonant digraphs,” you might say “Johnny is learning to read words like: bath, shed and chop.” Showing parents a copy of a recent story can give them a better glimpse of reading skills than a number or letter. 
    Dyslexia Support
  3. Establish a rapport with parents, just like you do with students. Together you are a team working to help the child learn.
  4. Make communication part of your regular routine, whether it is formal progress updates or short conversations, don’t wait until there is a problem or concern to open the lines of communication.
  5. Be honest about the sequence of learning you are following and the child’s progress. There are lots of empty promises directed at parents of children with dyslexia. They deserve to know that remediating reading difficulties, or going through the process of Orton-Gillingham tutoring takes time. 

Many schools have guidelines that set up certain rules about parent/teacher communication. If you work in a public school; text messaging, for example, may not be a practical choice for you; but you may want to take these other tips into consideration. 

For independent tutors, you have the gift of being able to set up a dynamic of parent communication that builds relationships and forms a united team to help the child make the most progress possible as a reader and writer. 

A bit of effort to alleviate the stress, while taking the time to create a climate of mutual respect will surely go a long way. Do you have tips for working with families? I'd love to hear about it!

Dyslexia Support

Managing Challenging Behaviors in the Orton-Gillingham Lesson: 5 Tips to Decrease Problems

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Managing Challenging Behaviors in the Orton-Gillingham Lesson: 5 Tips to Decrease Problems

Five Tips For Behavior Management

Whether you are working in a mainstream classroom, in small groups or in a one-on-one tutoring situation, you are bound to encounter the occasional behavior issue. When choosing which techniques to best help a particular situation, I find it helpful to start with the ABC’s of behavior. Getting to the root of the problem leads to a happier solution for teacher and student alike.

A: Antecedent – This is a fancy way of saying, “What happened immediately before the misbehavior?” Did a student struggle with a task? Were they feeling embarrassed in front of a peer? Were you about to transition to a new activity? Was something too easy? Looking at what triggered a particular behavior is a key to helping us figure out the reasons behind the behavior.

B: Behavior -- What is the behavior? Try to be really specific in your description.

C: Consequence – This is not a matter of time outs or missed recess, but rather what occurs naturally or through our current reactions as a result of the behavior. This may be leading the behavior to continue or help the behavior to decrease.

For example, a student that is a stronger reader than writer may begin to not follow directions, play with his pencil, fool around with peers and really derail an entire lesson the moment we take out pencil and paper. If I think about the ABC’s, I may gain a little insight into what is going on. The antecedent is beginning the writing and dictation portion of the lesson. The behavior is being off-task and disruptive. The consequence is that I cut that portion of the lesson short due to time. In effect, my response, while logical, reinforces the behavior I don’t want by taking decreasing the pain from the undesirable activity.

As teachers, we can control the antecedents and the consequences, but only the student can make choices about his or her behavior. For students with dyslexia, school and learning have frequently been an unpleasant experience and they may have well established patterns of misbehavior. It is also quite common for children with reading difficulties to also struggle with focus and attention. When you really analyze it, most of their misbehavior is motivated by a desire to either avoid something difficult, or not to feel embarrassed in front of their peers. 

Based on this likelihood, here are 5 tips to avoid losing valuable teaching time to behavior management. And, as an added bonus, these tips are also really effective for students with attention difficulties.

  1. Avoid downtime. Have your materials at the ready and keep all students actively engaged and responding. Instead of taking turns, give each student a specific task to do. Find ways that students can respond simultaneously and even privately. For example: writing answers on a white board shown only to the teacher, pointing, giving a hand signal or moving letter tiles.
  2. Create a safe climate. This is especially important for older struggling readers working in small groups, but even for individual tutoring, it can be difficult for a student to trust that they will not be laughed at or made to feel inferior. Laying down guidelines about kindness, encouragement and giving each other wait time can go a long way toward making students feel safe taking risks. It is also vitally important that making mistakes is viewed as a positive step toward mastery. I try hard to take responsibility for errors that result from poor word choices or lack of clarity and make it clear that the student is not responsible for my mistakes. Rather than telling a student an answer, guide them to the correct answer themselves. Avoid having another student be in a position to correct a peer. 
  3. Include games and fun activities. Making learning engaging and fun goes a long way toward preventing behavior problems. It also provides leverage to get through something that is tricky.  Point out that working hard and staying focused will give you more time for a fun activity. Maybe even consider doing a lesson component out of order to get it out of the way when the student is feeling less tired and more cooperative. Make sure the tasks you are asking the student to do are just right; not too easy and not too difficult. For more information on playing games, read this post.  For game ideas, try these.
  4. Frontload both expectations and emotions. Setting very clear expectations and reviewing those expectations regularly, helps students to keep the desired behavior in the forefront of their mind. It is a scientific fact that emotions will always take precedence in our brains over memory, learning and cognition. The same neurotransmitters that kept cave men safe from predators, causes a child who is feeling unsure and vulnerable to freeze and become unable to access their knowledge and strategies. Even very young children are able to understand this and learn to take calming breaths and let their brains do their job. As teachers, being tuned into our student’s emotional state, taking a few minutes to check in, and giving the child that may need a little boost some extra attention, sets the stage for a successful lesson.
  5. Use a reward system. Although prevention is more effective than most behavior charts, some students really benefit from a visual/tactical reminder. Some examples would be for each student to have 5 tokens to start the lesson. These could be pennies, laminated pictures stuck with Velcro, blocks or even candy. Every time you need to correct or redirect a student, you take away one token. At the end of the lesson, the tokens left can accumulate toward a prize or sticker. This is a particularly good way of providing more support for one or two children without singling them out. 

Additional Ideas

Another easy reward system is time based. Set a timer for random intervals. When the timer goes off, if the student or students are doing what they are supposed to, they get a tally. This works both individually or as a group adding marbles to a jar or tallies to a chart for a special treat like a game day or party. Alternatively points or tokens can be given at various predetermined points through the lesson, based on the children’s participation during the previous components.

Timers are also a great tool for teaching focus. Set a timer and give the students a challenge. “See if we can get through this big stack of phonogram cards before the timer goes off”. Another spur of the moment technique is a game of hangman. The teacher will add a body part for every redirection needed. You don’t need to do any talking, but it is surprisingly effective. This is particularly helpful for those students that have a knack for drawing you into their distraction. Best of all, I have seen students begin monitoring and catching themselves before interrupting their work.

For children who struggle in school, their challenging may very well have served as survival skills. These things kept them safe in the regular classroom environment. Carefully planned, individualized OG lessons and a warm rapport with your students can go a long way toward preventing behavior challenges. Staying on the cutting edge of a student’s learning, offering the right level of scaffolding, and building a relationship of mutual trust and respect is ultimately going to be more powerful than any behavior chart or reward system.

Five Tips for Behavior Management

Have you found a system that works well for you and your students? I'd love to hear about it. Please let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!

5 Success Tips for Dyslexia Advocacy

Friday, September 8, 2017
5 Success Tips for Dyslexia Advocacy
I am so thrilled to have Amy share tips for dyslexia advocacy with you today. Thank you so much Amy, from for sharing your expertise! 

If you have a struggling reader, you may be new to the concept of advocating for your child’s educational needs. Below are five things every parent of a student with reading difficulties should do to properly prepare themselves to advocate for their child’s academic, social and emotional needs.

1.      Have Your Child Evaluated! If you have a child who is struggling to read and is not making progress with general education interventions, it is imperative that you have your child evaluated sooner rather than later. Early identification is the key to success! Although the goal is to keep your child in a general education setting as long as possible, children with dyslexia need explicit, multi-sensory instruction that is only offered through special education. In order to be considered for special education, however, the school must first evaluate your child. To get the evaluation process started, you need to simply submit a letter requesting that your child be evaluated for special education. Included in my free guide is a sample evaluation request letter that you are welcome to use to get you started []. The school will then ask for your consent to evaluate your child via prior written notice. Once the evaluation process is complete, the IEP Team will consider the test results to determine eligibility. The evaluation process can take up to 60 school days to complete so it is vitally important to begin the process as soon as the challenges become apparent so you don’t lose valuable time. Please keep in mind, however, that schools cannot diagnose. They can only assess for areas of strength and weakness. In order to get a diagnosis, you would need to consult with a licensed educational psychologist, a neuropsychologist or another qualified medical professional to get a private evaluation. Getting a diagnosis will allow you to get a more complete profile of your child. If there are other considerations that affect the way your child learns, such as executive functioning disorder or ADHD, that will be identified in the private evaluation as well. That way, you can make sure that the IEP addresses all areas of need.

Either way, the evaluation should test all of the following areas:
- Cognitive Ability
- Phonological Processing
- Silent Reading
- Oral Reading
- Single Word Reading
- Rapid Naming
- Vocabulary
- Spelling
- Writing Sample
- Family and School History

2.      Document Everything - I cannot stress this enough! Documentation is essential when you are advocating for your child’s needs. Without documentation, it is difficult to track progress or lack there of, correspondence and important documents. Start off by getting a large binder. Divide it up into several sections and include copies of student work, school/teacher correspondence, progress reports/report cards, test results, IEPs, (if applicable), etc. Keep in mind, however, that documentation does not always have to take the form of paper. If your child is struggling with homework, fluency or decoding, consider videotaping your child reading so you can chronicle their experience at home. Those recordings can then be offered as evidence of your child’s struggles, especially if you find that the experience described by your child’s teachers differs greatly from your own.

3.      Adopt a Cooperative vs. Combative Mindset – Most parents feel that they need to go into Team meetings with fire in their eyes. But, you have to remember that the other members of the Team are people too and they will respond just like people do, when confronted. That is not to say that you shouldn’t be firm, informed and ready to defend your child and your child’s needs, but there is definitely a right and a wrong way to approach it within a Team meeting. If you think that you will have difficulty keeping your composure in the meeting, consider hiring an advocate. Their job is to be your voice and to allow you to maintain a good relationship with the Team. Your advocate can also help you understand what is going on during the meeting and can explain to you what your options are. Whatever you do, do not go to a meeting alone, especially if you are new at this. IEP meetings can be upsetting and overwhelming. It is always helpful to have someone with you to help you feel less alone in the fight for your child.

4.      Focus on Needs and Goals – As my mentor, Kelli Sandman-Hurley always says, “needs drive goals and goals drive services”. Every need should be addressed with a goal and every goal should be associated with a service.
Each goal should be specific, measureable, achievable, results-focused and time-bound (S.M.A.R.T.), so there is a particular target in mind at the end of the IEP period. If you feel that the goal is not aggressive enough, you can either partially reject that portion of the IEP, and/or you can request regular progress monitoring so you can determine if an IEP amendment is warranted.

5.      Review, Reflect and Strategize! On a fairly regular basis, review and reflect on what has worked and what hasn’t so you can make the appropriate adjustments. When you go into an IEP meeting, put some thought into what it is that you are trying to achieve ahead of time. Make a plan and develop a strategy for getting your child to where he or she needs to be. If your child is not making effective progress with the interventions offered by his or her school, you may need to determine whether the education is appropriate for your child’s needs. There may even come a time when you need to consider moving your child to a private school to get access to better services. This is known as “unilateral placement”.

The key to successful advocacy is education, preparation, organization and strategy. Becoming aware of the terms being discussed, the interventions/services available to your child and the progress achieved will allow you to feel more in control of your child’s academic future and his or her success plan. First and foremost, remember that you are your child’s best advocate and you know your child better than anyone. Becoming an informed advocate will go a long way to securing your child’s future success.

Helping families with dyslexia

About The Guest Blogger:
Amy Ruocco is the mother of two, a dyslexia advocate and a fierce warrior for dyslexic children. Through her website, she educates parents about the importance of early identification of dyslexia and teaches them how to advocate for appropriate interventions. To get access to her free guide, please visit

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