The last few months have been quite extraordinary for us here at HKB towers. We have not only published our first ever ‘turn-the-pages-paper-books’, but have also branched out into enhanced iBooks, tiny books and more recently ghost books! At the heart of all of this is a determination to innovate with originality and confidence, to think outside of the box and really push the boundaries of creativity and literary excellence. At the heart of this drive lives a very special book: Sally Gardner’s MAGGOT MOON. At the heart of this book lives Standish Treadwell, a boy with imagination, courage, intelligence and dyslexia.
Historically, dyslexia and reading have been two concepts that have been difficult to marry. Many dyslexic children find word deciphering difficult, and spelling and letter formation just as bad. Standish proves however, that having dyslexia is not a barrier to the world of creativity, but is in fact a bridge to it.
I have seen the relationship between dyslexia and reading from two sides of the coin – not only am I a dyslexic with a voracious appetite for reading, but have also trained as a primary school teacher and spent many worried evenings considering how best to help children struggling with reading and writing gain access to the curriculum, and to the joys of books. These considerations have featured before in my blogs (apologies if you’ve heard it all before!) but I feel that they are fundamentally important in how we understand the journey from hesitantly sounding out ‘LOOK’ when we are 5, to taking wing as fully fledged readers later in life.
When I was at primary school, I was last in the class to get to my pen license (believe me – this hurt). At secondary I was taken for hearing tests because my teachers couldn’t understand my inability to process their instructions, and even at university my supervisor made me miserable for an entire term because she refused to consider the value of my historical arguments before my apparent grammatical deficit. I know the frustration at having your creativity overlooked in favour of traditional word construction (who cares if the i goes before the e if your story about Hercules and his bejewelled winged horses is clearly a work of utter genius?).
But I also know that as a teacher there is a real difficulty, not only in identifying dyslexia in children, but also in catering whole class teaching to ensure that every need is met. Unfortunately this is a problem inherent in the teaching and education system as a whole – but I won’t get into that now, there isn’t enough room! It is worth considering nevertheless that perhaps if, as a nation, we were able to alter our expectations about how information is delivered and about what the outcomes of learning should be, we might see enjoyment increasing, and with it achievement (the two are surely essentially connected). If the goal that we set a child is to tell a story, it seems contradictory that this should be intrinsically tied to the ability to hold a pencil. Valuing stories imagined with pictures, recorded on film, or told at the back of the playground is perhaps one way to demonstrate how dyslexia can be the catalyst of creativity and not the obstructing to its eventual physical manifestation.
Agree? Disagree? Bored already? What do you think?