Libraries and dyslexia

Wendy Pearson, Library Service Development Leader for Learning and Literacy Support, talks about some of the work we are doing to help people with dyslexia.

What’s dyslexia got to do with libraries?

Dyslexia affects one in ten people in Scotland. Because struggling to read is one of the problems most commonly associated with dyslexia, libraries seem  a really appropriate place to focus energies. We support children and adults with dyslexia by providing books such as those published by local publisher Barrington Stoke which use a unique blend of ingenious design and editorial tricks to ensure an accessible read. And the stories are brilliant too!

Listening to words and stories provides the foundations for reading and our e-audio collections are available for everyone. We also have supportive software on all our library computers which helps open up the internet to less confident readers.

And every November we take get together with Dyslexia Scotland to put together a programme of events for Dyslexia Awareness Week.

Who gets involved with Dyslexia Awareness Week?

Anyone really. But it tends to be families who are affected by dyslexia, or parents and teachers wanting to find out more about it. We work with local schools, young people and adults, and this year several literacy practitioners organised sessions in local libraries.

This year over 200 people visited our libraries for dyslexia related events. At both Muirhouse and Leith Libraries groups of adult learners, parents and literacy workers watched an excellent DVD starring  Kara Tointon from East Enders. Kara is herself dyslexic and her open and honest story provoked some useful discussions. Indeed a really positive outcome is that a new group for adults with dyslexia or parents of children with dyslexia will be starting up in North Edinburgh in January.

We have fabulous support from several Ambassadors from Dyslexia Scotland. Fencing champion Keith Cook delighted children at Leith, Granton and Sighthill libraries, as he encouraged them to try lunging and moving stealthily whilst wearing their protective masks!  Keith showed that despite still struggling to read and not the best of spellers, he can represent our country and run a really successful business. He’s heading up the Scottish team for the Commonwealth Games next year, by the way!

Keith Cook

‘It was awesome and excellent to meet Keith. We got to hold his swords and he taught us a lot about how to cope with dyslexia and not to feel bad but good about it, and ourselves’ Lewis, Granton

For youngsters struggling to read it is a real inspiration to meet Ambassadors like Keith, and his ‘glass half full’ personality easily rubs off on whoever he engages with.

In a similar way, young adult learners were able to celebrate their achievements in the company of Paul McNeill, who must be The Scottish Football Association’s most dynamic area manager. Another Ambassador for Dyslexia Scotland, Paul has a very powerful story to share of his struggles growing up with dyslexia, his disengagement with the education system, and his determination to move forward. His passion for football and life enabled everyone to relax and fully participate in the celebrations.

paul mcneill learner celebration 13 (2)

Paul McNeill (front, centre) at our learner celebration event

Literacy Practitioner Neil Saddington commented after the event: ‘It was a real privilege to work in partnership with both Edinburgh Libraries staff and Dyslexia Scotland to put on such a wonderful, celebratory, event for young literacies learners in the local community. The success of this event was in no small part down to our amazing guest speaker Paul McNeill who successfully captured the imagination of all the young adults in attendance. For days after young people kept coming up to me and saying thanks for getting Paul to come and talk to us.’

 And it only lasts one week?

Well, the official week does, but Edinburgh Libraries continues to work in partnership with Dyslexia Scotland all year, and support for people with dyslexia is an ongoing commitment. Our Chatterbooks Reading Group for  children with dyslexia has been running successfully for three years and we are delighted to be starting our second group at Sighthill Library in February next year. These groups offer children a safe, supportive and informal environment to discover the joy of words, stories, reading.

Staff are supported by a band of wonderful volunteers and this high adult to child ratio produces a really positive group where we literally watch  the children growing in self-esteem and confidence. And, yes, it’s fair to say they develop a new appreciation of books and reading too!

As part of Dyslexia Awareness Week this year, some of the children took part in an animated  discussion about dyslexia at The Filmhouse, following a showing of ‘Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters’. It was a very proud moment for us all.

And there are other things in the pipeline for next year. ‘Dyslexia and Us’, published by Edinburgh Libraries in partnership with Dyslexia Scotland in 2011, is to be made available in e-book and e-audio formats,  making this collection of powerful personal stories accessible to everyone. Local Dyslexia Scotland meetings will also be taking place in several of our libraries during the next twelve months


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