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Different Strokes for Different… Readers

Michael Morpurgo

Hello and welcome to our new blog!

This is where you’ll find the Barrington Stoke team talking books ”“ books for dyslexic or reluctant readers, books for book-eaters and books for everyone in between.

We’re based in Edinburgh, and over the last couple of weeks the city has been buzzing with War Horse fever. The National Theatre show has landed and it seems that everyone in town has a ticket. And so I’m going to ring the changes and kick off the blog with a post inspired not by Michael Morpurgo’s most famous novel, nor by his books for us, but by the sequel Farm Boy.

This isn’t contrariness on my part ”“ Farm Boy has had a special place in my heart for some time. I hadn’t read the book when Scamp Theatre’s stage adaptation came north of the border last year, and I didn’t know about the strand of the plot dealing with the grandfather’s illiteracy and how he overcomes it. It’s beautifully handled, and I was particularly struck by the moment when the grandson notices that his grandfather has finally stopped reading the words and is now reading the story instead. That is a hurdle that many readers of Barrington Stoke books struggle to overcome ”“ because they have dyslexia, and working memory issues, or simply lack the experience that is required to read without foregrounding the process.

By sheer coincidence, a friend called me the night I saw Farm Boy to talk about her daughter, who is bright as a button but has been struggling more and more of late with the written word. Her (very supportive) school tested her for dyslexia and found that the results were inconclusive. She can decode, but she struggles to read for meaning. She finds spelling tough to impossible, she reverses and flips letters, and she struggles with organisation, strings of instructions and developmental milestones her peers passed long ago ”“ telling the time or tying shoelaces, for example. On the other hand, she is incredibly creative and has endless focus for the right task.

None of this is atypical for a dyslexic girl. As we spoke, my friend was following links online and found another indicator ”“ her daughter suffers from constant tummy-aches. This is a common complaint for dyslexic girls ”“ a side effect of stress as they struggle to keep up in school.

Farm Boy and the phone call impressed on me how complex reading and writing are as processes, and how complicated reading and writing issues are in turn. For those of us who make the jump to reading the story and not the words, it can be easy to forget that word and letter shapes are arbitrary in the end of the day and that English spelling is demanding, with a large number of irregular words that must be committed to memory. And we can easily fall into a rather nasty trap of judging those who struggle with reading or writing as less worthy than ourselves. Not guilty? Even of the occasional shudder at a ”˜grocer’s apostrophe’”¦?

We’ll be posting regularly on the blog about dyslexia, reading reluctance and other reading issues, and offering ideas for ways to help and insights into the tweaks we carry out in our publishing to lessen potential difficulties. We’ll also be talking books in general, our books in particular, and there will no doubt be a good sprinkling of publishing news and chat. We hope to check in with my friend’s daughter on occasion ”“ she is now a big fan of Kaye Umansky’s Weird Trilogy and fractured fairy tales.

We hope you’ll come back and join in the conversation ”“ we’ll be here Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and some days in between. Until the next time, you can follow this link to Barrington Stoke’s dyslexia-friendly Michael Morpurgo books, and watch the trailer for the original production of Farm Boy back in 2010 below.

And if you have a ticket for War Horse, we’re jealous”¦

3 thoughts on “Different Strokes for Different… Readers

  1. Very interesting, I wasn’t aware of all the signs esp tummy aches. I’m sure lots of people will really appreciate all the tips and advice they can find on here 🙂
    I’ve emailed a link to our school librarian and pastoral team – I’m sure they’re already aware of your site but sent it to them just in case they hadnt seen it already 🙂
    We love Michael Morpurgo books but sadly weren’t available when Warhorse was on locally.
    Thanks for the interesting post 🙂

  2. Lovely to spot this come on on Twitter this morning 🙂 Incidentally mentioning grocer apostrophes, did you see the Guardian post this morning about whether people would be put off by applications with spelling errors?
    Will check back here again on Wednesday 🙂

    • Barrington Stoke Team says:

      Lovely to hear from you BooKa Uhu, thanks for your comments. We had not seen the Guardian post – but we’re off to investigate right now! 🙂

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