Making Books Accessible Matters

Disclaimer: I was sent a selection of new Barrington Stoke texts for inclusion in a round up post about new releases. This post is an aside and very much my views.

I sit here writing this as someone who has always loved reading. As a child when asked to do something my response wasn’t “In a minute” but “when I’ve finished this chapter.” I devoured Malory Towers, Famous Five, Sweet Valley Twins, The Babysitters’ Club and pretty much anything else I could get my hands on. As a teenager English was my favourite subject, I got the top marks in my school for English literature and went on to study it at Cambridge. It’s a joy that I’ve spent the last 20 years as a teacher trying to share with any child who crosses my bath.

I also happen to be dyslexic.

At 18 my driving instructor gave up on me. I drove on the wrong side of the road. At 39 I still don’t know my left from my right, I mark with a dictionary beside me to triple check spellings I am unsure of. I practice handwriting with care so I can model well for my pupils.

My coping strategies are at expert level. 

Unless I tell someone, they wouldn’t know about my dyslexia. They would have no idea about how hard I work on a daily basis to be the best that I can be.

Because the truth is that even I don’t realise.

When you have always had to compensate, you stop realising that you are doing it. It becomes the norm.

I read avidly even as an adult. It is one of my greatest joys. It is only when I pick up a bright white academic text that I realise how hard I work to do so.

Novels on recycled paper, were I thought ok. I had no idea how hard my brain works to decode them. 

Until that is I discovered the print, yellow paper and spacing inside Barrington Stoke’s books yesterday. 

The difference was like night and day.

My eyes relaxed instantly as the words jumped off the page and into my brain. It was instant. It was effortless. Even to me as an established, avid and enthusiastic reader the effect was remarkable.

Now imagine handing that book to a child who is struggling, a child who is reluctant, a child who is yet to discover the magic of reading. Imagine the look of joy on their face as they realise they CAN do this, that they can not only decide but understand what they read effortlessly, that they can retain it.

As a society with have the power to make that something that is the norm not the exception.

Printing on different paper, with different spacing, and a different font are not complex changes. They are changes that would make no difference to the vast majority of the population, but to the 7.3 million estimated Dyslexics in the UK alone – they would quite literally be a life changing.

It is time to demand that others follow the lead of those like Barrington Stoke who have admirably led the way.

Because children deserve access to as many books as possible, not just a select few.

Because these things make an enormous difference even to those of us who are efficient readers.

Because children are our future, and we know that the more books they read, the more efficiently they read and the better the texts they read are, the better their life chances will be.

It is time to stand and ask for that change.

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