Designing Books for Dyslexic Students

Official Dosomething.org Project

The Problem

This is an Essay I wrote involving how and why I started this project: Helping Others A knock on my bedroom door, my mom had ventured upstairs to ask for help designing colorful posters and worksheets for her students. I really just wanted to practice my dance, but I knew it meant a lot to my mother, so I offered a helping hand. These lesson plans were special creations, not just for ordinary students, they benefited people who suffered from dyslexia, a language based reading disability. I had never really attempted to understand the challenges faced by people with dyslexia until I set out to assist my mother. To me, the posters I was helping to create were very easy to read and simple to understand. My mother explained that people with dyslexia struggle to decode common words and may visualize some letters or numbers backwards. The most common reversals are d and b. I was never aware that so many people throughout the world are affected, possibly twenty percent of the population. Soon I began helping my mother more frequently. She was excited, informing me that the kids loved my three-dimensional letter poster, designed to enhance phonemic awareness and letter formation skill. One poster simulated a baseball bat with a Styrofoam baseball in the shape of the lower case letter b. This was to be utilized as a visual cue while “sky-writing” the letter b. As a result, the students were beginning to ask numerous questions about me as a person. When my mom shared that, a smile instantly appeared on my face and a warm sensation filled my body. Making even a small difference to these young dyslexic students was a wonderful possibility. They might have trouble achieving in life and overcoming obstacles without the multi-sensory teaching. Helping dyslexic students made me more aware. One day I was shopping with my cousin, Kristen. We were in one of the mall stores looking at clothes. Kristen asked me what the writing said on a shirt, so I told her. This didn’t phase me at the time because the writing was cursive and somewhat challenging to decipher. Later that day at the ATM, when Kristen began to ask me what the words said on the screen, I realized she couldn’t differentiate between checking and savings. I was surprised, but I refrained from commenting. We proceeded to lunch where she seemed very frustrated in her efforts to read menu selections. She tried, but was unable to pronounce most of the words. It began to dawn on me that she might be dyslexic. I casually asked her to read other words throughout the day but she was not able to comply. Due to my familiarity with the techniques and lessons my mom utilized, I suspected a reading disability, possibly dyslexia. My stomach dropped when I realized that my cousin, a fourth grader, could not read and might be far behind in all her schoolwork. How could she ever catch up to grade level? My mother revealed that my cousin had recently been tested and the results did, in fact, reveal severe dyslexia. Kristen currently attends a school that specializes in dyslexia. Now, when my cousin visits me, I help her read her homework. I may not have a teaching degree, but I can make a difference. There is nothing more heart-warming than watching my cousin accomplish a difficult assignment. I can see the frustration in her eyes as she attempts to say the words, but once she masters the task, that light bulb goes off in her head. Her sincerity when she proclaims, “Leah, you’re one of the best teachers I have ever had!” will remain with me always. My first reaction was, “Me… a teacher?” I had never considered myself as such, simply a person who enjoys helping others. I discovered it was fulfilling to help others realize the satisfaction of accomplishing their academic dreams, one small step at a time. To witness my cousin’s development in her reading was the best reward I could ask for. This experience inspired me to consider other ways I might help dyslexic readers. My mom informed me of the lack of suitable phonic based reading books. Currently, I am composing short stories to enrich the supply of materials. I work with my mother’s lesson plans to create the short stories for her. It takes a great amount of time and effort but by writing a few stories, I hope to help. This is an amazing opportunity. I would like to show others that small efforts can materialize into big results.

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