Library Collections and Services for Kids with Reading Disabilities
October is Learning Disabilities Awareness Month. Learning Disabilities (LDs) are hard to measure, but statistics show that 2 to 10% of Canadians have one. It is the second most common disability in youth, following only mental illness.
While there are many different types of learning disabilities, the focus of this post is reading disabilities. Dyslexia is the most common reading disability. However, some other medical conditions and disabilities can cause reading challenges.
A person with a reading disability may experience difficulty with:
- Learning letters and their sounds
- Organizing their written and spoken language
- Reading quickly
- Understanding what they read
Not all children with reading difficulties necessarily have a disability. All children learn at a different pace, and some may need a little extra help to reach grade level. These children may still benefit from some of the suggestions listed below.
The following formats and resources are available at the Toronto Public Library to support children with reading disabilities.
OverDrive is TPL's largest platform for eBooks and eAudiobooks.
Using eBooks can be helpful for people with reading disabilities. This is because is many cases, users can customize their reading settings.
Some people with dyslexia benefit from a font called OpenDyslexic. Letters in OpenDyslexic are designed with heavy-weighted bottoms, which may help with letter recognition. It also uses unique letter shapes and wide letter spacing. Using their reading settings, OverDrive users can select OpenDyslexic as their book's font. However, it is important to note that not everyone with dyslexia finds OpenDyslexic helpful.
Some readers also find it helpful to increase the font size, line spacing, and/or page contrast.
There is also the choice of reading eBooks through either OverDrive or the Libby app. All of the reading settings mentioned above are available on both OverDrive and Libby.
Many people with reading disabilities find it useful to combine print with audio. In fact, studies show that for people with dyslexia, listening while reading increases fluency, comprehension and reading accuracy.
Kids in the younger elementary grades may enjoy OverDrive's Read-Along format. Read-Alongs allow the reader to listen along while they read. The book highlights the text that is being read aloud. OverDrive organizes their Read-Alongs for kids into Fiction and Non-Fiction.
In addition to Read-Alongs, OverDrive offers Read-Along Videos, which are animated children's books with onscreen text and audio narration.
Since most Read-Alongs are aimed toward kids in grades K-3, older kids may prefer to pair their printed books with audiobooks. An advantage of OverDrive over traditional CDs is that users can customize the speed of the book's narration.
OverDrive has a wide selection of popular audiobooks for kids. It also has audio versions of comics and graphic novels that would pair well with their print versions. There is more information about the benefits of graphic novels below.
Decodable books focus on phonetics, which use sound and letter patterns to help kids learn to read. Dyslexia Canada recommends decodable books for children who are struggling with this skill.
Bob Books' simple phonics teach one skill at a time. They are packaged in sets. Each set contains several short books.
Sounds Like Reading Books by Brian P. Cleary
These brightly illustrated, fun books focus on teaching reading through rhyme patterns. In addition to the print books, they are also available on OverDrive as Read-Alongs.
These basic phonics books increase in complexity as readers make their way through the series.
These readers use phonics, repetition and appealing illustrations. They are only available as eBooks.
All-in-One Read-Alongs are similar to OverDrive's Read-Alongs, except they are physical picture books with a built-in audio player. This format is suitable for younger children who are learning how to read.
Hi-Lo means the content is high-interest while the reading level is low. These books are created for struggling readers who want to read about age-appropriate topics they can still understand.
Orca Two Read books are heavily illustrated phonics stories for children ages 6 to 9 who are learning how to read. The books are meant to be read alongside an experienced "buddy reader." Right now their only series is Meg and Greg, a chapter book that is published with a dyslexia-friendly font.
Orca Currents are short, high-interest novels for students ages 10 to 14 who are reading below grade level.
You can find other Hi-Lo books in our catalogue by searching under the subject heading "High Interest-Low Vocabulary Books" and limiting the results to Children. A couple of series on that list that work particularly well for kids in the younger grades are Bink & Gollie and Elephant & Piggie. TPL also has a list of Hi-Lo books for Teens.
Dyslexic readers are Hi-Lo books that use dyslexia-friendly formatting. This consists of a specially-designed font such as OpenDyslexic or Dyslexie, and printed on thicker, tinted paper.
As mentioned previously, not all readers with dyslexia find this format useful, so don't be discouraged if it doesn't work for your child.
Graphic novels are a popular and accessible format that work well for kids with reading disabilities. They are helpful because the pictures give cues to the meaning of the text. Graphic novels also help strengthen kids' confidence and build vocabulary.
Many illustrated novels, such as the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries series, also fit into this category. These types of books are great for reluctant readers because they combine great storytelling with humour.
If your child has a learning disability, they are eligible for services through the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA). With access to over 800,000 items, CELA's collection includes eAudiobooks that can be downloaded or listened to on a player. Eligibility and registration information about CELA can be found on the TPL website.
Leading to Reading
Leading to Reading is a free program that pairs volunteers with children in grades 1 to 6 who are struggling with reading and writing. The volunteers use fun, interactive methods to increase the child's interest and confidence in reading. The program is currently being offered at select library branches.
Books About Reading Disabilities for Kids and Parents
Books for Kids
We maintain an updated list of recommended children's books written by or about people with disabilities called Disability: Read Up On It!
Here are a few books that portray characters with dyslexia and learning disabilities with sensitivity and positivity.
Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
At first, Trisha loves school, but she experiences difficulties learning how to read. A new teacher helps her understand and overcome her problem.
Here's Hank series by Henry Winkler
This Early Reader series features the funny adventures of Hank Zipzer, a boy with ADHD and dyslexia. The books are published with dyslexia-friendly formatting.
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Ally, an intelligent, creative sixth grader with dyslexia, worries that people will find out that she cannot read. A Schneider Family Book Award winner.
The Truth As Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor
Mason Buttle can barely read or write. His learning disabilities are compounded by grief, following the unexplained death of his best friend. Then Mason makes a new friend, who also goes missing. Soon, Mason finds himself in trouble. Will anyone believe him? A Schneider Family Book Award winner.
Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Books for Parents & Educators
Dyslexia Canada recommends the following books for parents and educators. For more tools and resources, you can visit their website.
Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally E. Shaywitz
Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf
And don't forget another important resource: library staff! We would be happy to provide you and your child with additional reading suggestions and resources next time you can call or visit one of our open branches.