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Every Kid Reads in Their Own Way:
7 Children’s Books About Dyslexia

by Denise Schipani

Children with dyslexia, whose brains take longer than typical kids’ to decode what’s on a page and understand it as a story, find reading a chore. And why wouldn’t they? Chances are, what they’re most often given to read in school are books that feel more homework-y than heavenly. Many dyslexic children give up before they get to the end, and a story not fully told is never going to engage them. So how do you choose books that have a chance to hook readers who struggle to, well, read? One approach is to find books about kids with their same difficulties, having marvelous adventures despite their issues. Here are a few we found that can be read independently or together with a parent:

  • Close to Famous

    by Joan Bauer

    Everybody wants to be somebody, and 12-year-old Foster McKee, the heroine of Close to Famous, is no different. After a move from Memphis to rural West Virginia with her mom, an aspiring singer, Foster tries her hardest to realize her dream of having her very own TV cooking show — and, oh, learning to read, which is a lot harder for her thanks to a learning disability. Quirky characters in the McKees’ new town all have their dreams, too, including the reclusive actress who helps Foster make sense of books.
    Ages 10+

  • Eleven

    by Patricia Reilly Giff

    Imagine finding, in a box in your grandfather’s attic, a newspaper clipping that reveals something shocking about your past — that you’d been kidnapped as a child — but you can barely read it thanks to a learning issue. That’s the story of Sam in Patricia Reilly Giff’s Eleven. Lovers of mysteries and psychological suspense will dive into this story — and kids with a similar disability will love that the author highlights Sam’s non-reading talents (he’s a master woodworker).
    Ages 8 - 12

  • The Soggy, Foggy Campout (Here’s Hank #8)

    by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver, illustrated by Scott Garrett

    Get ready to redefine the word “underachiever.” Hank Zipzer, the fictional creation/alter ego of actor and director Henry Winkler (and coauthor Lin Oliver) barrels through this series of novels as an otherwise normal kid with a learning difference. In fact, there are two series: the original Hank Zipzer books and the newer Here’s Hank! series. Yep, Hank’s totally normal — and by “normal” we mean he has a pet iguana and is constantly getting into and out of adventures. You know, like every kid. And that’s the point: Every kid is different, and every kid learns in his or her own way.
    Ages 6 - 8

  • Fish in a Tree

    by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

    Ally’s creativity is boundless; she sees art and moving images in everything and everyone around her. But when it comes to reading, the world stops. Time freezes. Panic sets in. With her dad in the military, Ally’s moved around a lot, and each time she lands at a new school, she’s able to create enough of a distraction to mask her reading difficulties. That changes when she meets Mr. Daniels, a teacher who sees past Ally’s antics and helps her make sense of reading and herself.
    Ages 8 - 12

  • Tacky the Penguin

    by Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn M. Munsinger

    Kids with dyslexia, as well as other differences, should get the message early on that there’s more than one way to be, to think, to read, and to write. In this enchanting children’s book, we find Tacky: An oddball, out-of-the-box thinker struggling to fit in with a colony of perfect penguins, and learning how to think positively about his lack of “perfection.”
    Ages 4 - 7

  • It’s Called Dyslexia

    by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos, illustrated by Marta Fábrega

    It’s Called Dyslexia is part of a series of books called Live and Learn, each written from the point of view of a child with a learning or other disability. In this story, an elementary-aged girl goes from loving school (she knows her letters!), to hating it (the letters simply won’t arrange themselves into words!), until she gets help and, as a bonus, discovers a hidden talent. A section for parents is also included.
    Ages 4 - 7

  • My Name Is Brain Brian

    by Jeanne Betancourt

    Brian has always known he has some kind of problem with reading and writing, and he dreads the start of school each year because of it. But when his sixth grade teacher sees him write “Brain” instead of “Brian,” she steps in to help. In My Name is Brain, Brian has someone who understands (rather than pushes him to just “try harder,” as his parents have done), and who doesn’t make fun (as his schoolmates have). Brian’s brain is just fine!
    Ages 8 - 12