Understanding Dyslexia (my granddaughter’s story)

My granddaughter, Maryjane, can spend hours tucked away in her room reading. She is currently reading two different series. She is on the last book of Twilight and is firmly in the hashtag, #teamEdward. Her best friend loves Jacob, so the two will have rousing disagreements on the merits of each imaginary, but beguiling character! Maryjane is on the second book of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Jane Goldman. But she isn’t sight reading these volumes, she is listening to them.

Maryjane is dyslexic. After becoming her homeschool teacher, I began to really delve into what that meant, because I think it is still grossly misunderstood in society. I know I was completely ignorant at the beginning of this journey. To me, dyslexia meant that the reader mixes letters up, so that it inadvertently takes a bit longer to read. There is a lot more to it than that. Yes, the dyslexic reader will see thing backwards sometimes, 5 becomes S, or “for” could look like for, of, or from. These do slow the budding reader down. However, the connection between the brain and the eye doesn’t register as quickly as a strong sight reader. A word that Maryjane reads over and over again throughout a book will suddenly become unidentifiable.

We live in a society that supports strong sight readers. We worry for kids that cannot read. We worry that they will miss out, be left behind, and we may mistakenly believe that they are not as intelligent as their peers. Add that to overcrowded classrooms, teachers that do not understand dyslexia, and we have some real problems facing these young readers. Considering that 1 in 10 people are dyslexic, we must begin to understand that this is more than just mixing around letters.

The first thing to address is confidence. It is horrifying for a child (and adults!) to let on that they cannot read or cannot read well. These young readers are given up on pretty quickly. Believed to be lazy or slow, an exasperated teacher will just let them go. Maryjane was made to walk alone out of her classroom of peers to go to the first grade class to find suitable books to read. Humiliated, she began to shut down. She couldn’t even read the first grade books, but no one was really able to help her.

A dyslexic reader is a strong aural reader. Maryjane is flying through these books on CD. A sight reader can read a page and understand its content in about 1 minute. A dyslexic reader will take 6 minutes to read the same page and understand it, but can listen to the page being read and understand it in 1 minute. The whole point of reading is to learn or understand information. What does it matter how they learn and comprehend it? Teaching dyslexic readers that aural reading is just as valuable as sight reading is the key to eliminating the stigma behind dyslexia. Giving them the confidence to ask for an aural reading option is the key to success and confidence.

Maryjane is reading books beyond her age group, loving and devouring reading. which was my goal. When I began this journey with her, my fear was that she would not love literature. Books have formed me, made me who I am, instilled passions and wisdom in my life, and I am in love with literature. I am a strong sight reader and a writer. I had to get over my fear of loss for her in order to help her. My goal as her teacher was to make her a lover of books. To know the joy of escape into a book, and to utilize books for knowledge and inspiration. As she hovers over her art journal drawing whilst listening to her vampire/werewolf sage, I feel proud that we have succeeded at that.

Maryjane is ten years old, just finishing up fourth grade with me. Last July, when I took over her schooling, she could not read. She is now at a second grade level. This makes me so proud of her. We use specialized phonics books for dyslexia and audio books. Some folks might thing this is cheating, but if a blind person is listening to audio books, are they still reading? So is the dyslexic child.

Another positive thing that came out of this story is that one of my dearest friends, who was ashamed of her reading abilities, realized that she is dyslexic as well. Fifty-four years old and just now understanding. Maryjane is a light to all who meet her. She is so smart and funny. By eliminating shame around dyslexia, we can improve confidence and give options to those that are stronger aural readers then sight readers. Dyslexic people tend to be more eloquent speakers because they learn vast numbers of words from listening. They are better listeners and strong public speakers, often outgoing and have strong hands-on skills. I am happy that I was forced out of my comfortable shell of being a strong sight reader (and perhaps a little judgmental of those that weren’t?) to learn more about dyslexia and the ten percent of the population that are bright, intelligent learners.

More resources:

The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan; A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning by Ben Foss

The workbooks, Learn to Read for Kids with Dyslexia by Hannah Braun


  1. Tom is dyslexic. His primary school when he was 6 said he couldn’t be taught to read. I bought a phonic reading scheme, I taught him to read, luckily we could afford it, if not what would have happened to him? He would have slipped through the cracks for sure! Instead because of his musical abilities he got a scholarship to a good school who were more sympathetic. He went on to university he still struggles with the written word and Sophia proof reads but we got there! Well done you, with hindsight I wish I had been brave enough to take him out of school and home school both him and his sister but hindsight is a wonderful thing and at that age I wasn’t brave enough to buck the system. So glad Mary Jane is blossoming under your tutelage 😊

    • I had never even heard of children being homeschooled when I was growing up and certainly never met any until my own children were in school. And you are right, the costs associated could be a lot for some families. I pay for all her books and Emily paid $1200 to receive an evaluation letter stating that Maryjane is dyslexic so that she is exempt from the “No Child Left Behind” act that would keep her from advancing in school. Hopefully more resources will become available as parents begin to understand what is needed.

  2. First and foremost, Maryjane is SSSOOO lucky to have you as her home teacher. Without you (if in regular school) she would have been pushed aside and probably never learned to read.

    I’m going to show my ignorance about dyslexia. If she is listening to an audio book, can she follow along in a printed book and understand it as well (or maybe better)? Some things are just not available in aural form. Can a dyslexic person ever outgrow the condition?

    Love you all Rod

    • Good questions! I am learning as well. It seems to be a long held myth that dyslexic folks grow out of it. The author of the book I mentioned at the end of my post invented the Intel Reader and has a law degree, but can only sight read at a 5th grade level. I’m sure each reader is different, but no, they do not grow out of it. As for Maryjane reading along with the audio book, I thought of that too, but she pointed out that by the time she sits there trying to see what word they are on and sounding out everything, she missed the book! That may work in the future, we’ll see. There are apps that will scan text and read it on the spot, so that may be helpful, or she may become quite proficient and only need help sometimes. Time will tell!

      • Thanks for the info. When I was a Technical Writer, we were told to keep it at a sixth-grade level. LOL… sometimes that is really hard to do. I use the “read aloud” function on internet stories and follow along as it highlights the words. I find this comforting. Maybe someone that is dyslexic would also, just a suggestion.

        With Love Rod

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s