I might have said this before: I’m a slow reader. It can take me weeks to read a weighty novel. Dense text, small font size and narrow spacing puts me right off.
I like a page that’s easy on the eye.
With plenty of white space around the words.
Something that I can read
if I need (or want) to.
“Like poetry” I hear you say?
So I understand, to some extent, how pupils with specific reading difficulties feel when faced with page after page of the stuff. You can see the panic in their eyes each time they turn the page.
I love my work as a teacher and tutor of struggling readers. I love guiding them through the morass: facilitating background knowledge, making it relevant; ‘picturing’ powerful passages as screen shots (with sound effects. Why not?); finding the poetry in the prose (goes without saying) and all that grows a lifelong love of books and reading. (Yay, verily, the State Education policy-makers doth now acknowledge the importance of Reading for Enjoyment, gawd bless ’em).
One of the highlights of my teaching week is the hour I spend with a dyslexic pupil whom I’ve tutored for the past five years. A large part of the ground we cover, these days, is the advance reading of class texts. Like this meaty (and mighty) read:
These lessons are very much a shared experience, down to the rollercoaster of emotions that comes from empathy with the main characters (even though I’ve read ahead). Last Sunday afternoon, and having reached the Big Reveal on page 222, the book just wouldn’t let go. I HAD to read the last sixty or so pages right there and then. To leave the ‘picture’ on pause would have been unbearable. (The roast dinner could wait; the book wouldn’t). So I read on, with the text as my film script, the images and sound effects as captivating (and horrific) as any cinema experience.
Wednesday’s lesson was a hurtle to the end, with total immersion. I read key passages and my pupil read the letters which moved the plot towards its climax (yes, we cued the soundtrack) and tied together the remaining loose strands. The lesson ended in a three-way conversation as her mum (and shared reading partner, between times) joined us and talked about the profound effect the book had had on her, too.
Amen to the power of words and the art of writing.