Olympia Publishers (www.olympiapublishers.com)
Print ISBN: 978-1-905513-60-4
Digital ISBN: 978-1-905513-60-4 Publication Date: 26th August 2008‘A Useful Dyslexia Handbook for Adults’ was created by Catherine Taylor. At first glance, the title offers no obvious cryptic meanings. However, when reading on it becomes evident that just like the title, the book’s strength is in in its simplicity. In saying that, the title gives little justice to how incredibly ‘useful’ this ‘hand book’ truly is.
In the preface of the book, Catherine gives an overview on her extensive background in working with adults with dyslexia. Her experience offers a back-drop to the passion that has driven her to write this book. By this she makes her intentions clear; she is determined to bridge the gap of understanding, not only for those with dyslexia, but also for those without it and may not understand it. She makes purposeful efforts to dispel the societal labels such as dyslexia being an “excuse”. In doing so, she is aware of the emotional boundaries that can inhibit learning for an adult with dyslexia and she addresses these. This is reflected in her wish to help a “wider range of people”. Nonetheless, I just can’t help but fall in love with her humility and grace in her dedication “For all the dyslexic people I have met over the years. While I was teaching, I was learning.”
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The book is divided into topic-focused chapters. She employs an informal style of writing using colloquial language, simple sentence structure and emotive language. By doing this, she is not just informing the reader, but also inviting them to engage in the subject. I appreciated this personal quality which made it very accessible. I often felt as though I was in primary school, sitting on the floor and listening to one of my favourite teachers with a gentle manner.
In the early chapters she invites readers to approach the book with a “beginner’s mind”, throwing away any pre-conceived ideas about dyslexia, and then normalising it by demonstrating that anyone can have dyslexia, irrespective of their background or who they are in society. By doing this, she makes it clear that the effects of dyslexia are actually hidden; behind the scenes. Indeed, she made a point by saying that people with dyslexia tend to work “harder than their peers” (p.18). This sets the tone to get more intimately involved with the concepts of dyslexia, thus Catherine states that the book is “not intended as a technical manual”. I love that she writes that the book is aimed at those passed the age of “compulsory” education, meaning that she is offering an opportunity for growth, as well as learning (p.20), if you wish.
Catherine’s approach is very balanced; whilst she offers guidance, she is by no means authoritative. When describing dyslexia, she specifically highlights that it can be amongst anyone and affect people in different ways. In addition to talking about the science behind dyslexia, she also places importance on the psychological impacts such as “low confidence and self-esteem”. Whilst this may not necessarily be what dyslexia is, it certainly contributes to the learning difficulties individuals with dyslexia face. Thus, she asks the reader to be sensitive to the individuals’ needs so that approaches can be tailored to their specific needs.
Catherine’s chapter on ‘Reading and Spelling’ was something I loved reading. She replaces the alphabet with symbols and essentially creates an alien language. Moreover, she complicates matters by consistently introducing new rules. She then heightens the difficulty of the task by introducing ‘exceptions’ to the rules. This unorthodox approach is highly effective in giving the reader a chance to experience what difficulties someone with dyslexia can face.
Catherine’s ‘Self-Help’ chapter is a wondrous and very helpful source of information that I wish I had come across before. There are so many simple and practical tips around technology, study and reading. Her “look, cover, write, check” technique for reading is indeed simple and easy to remember. Catherine’s background as a teacher truly shines in the way she engages the reader whilst also offering a caring attitude. She did not take away from the fact that reading is a struggle, but rather encourages “easy readers” or children’s books as simply a good technique for improvement. I was very impressed with this book, and Catherine’s efforts to educate and promote understanding towards dyslexia should be applauded. The book is well-written and accessible. She need not hope her efforts will reach people, because anyone reading this will find her interactive approach very insightful. I do wish Catherine were my teacher in primary school, but what is good is that with this ‘Useful Handbook’, she can be everyone’s teacher.