Fight dyslexia with a Kindle!

Something that some people know about me, but by no means everybody, is that i have dyslexia. I don’t think i have it to a very strong degree, but i have it enough to find reading quite difficult, and it takes quite an effort to override my brain’s resistance to reading.

At school we read Jane Eyre for GCSE. I hated it. We were obliged to read a certain number of chapters per week, and we did all sorts of textual analysis, none of which i remember now. There was no joy for me in reading the book, only stress and pressure. I found it dull, and to be quite honest, i don’t think i made it past half-way through. I’ve no idea how i blagged my way through the exam; my memory is blank. Nobody knew i was dyslexic back then, so i had no help and i used to dread English lessons more than any others.

I am one of those stereotypical people who never read anything until i read Harry Potter. I remember the emotion at finishing Philosopher’s Stone was so overwhelming that i burst into tears on a train at the moment i finished it! I love the Harry Potter series so much because it showed me that reading could be enjoyable, and i have been able to read many more books since then.

Enter the Kindle

As i am travelling a lot more these days, i decided to buy a Kindle for the ease of taking books with me. The Kindle is very clear and easy to read, and actually turns out to be very good for dyslexic people, for several reasons …

Kindle changing font options

One of my biggest obstacles to reading is the moment i turn over each page. If i see a big block of text, my brain reacts strongly against it. Every neuron tells me “No, that’s hard! Don’t make me read that!”. It can be overcome by putting a bookmark under a line at a time, letting me focus on a small amount. But on a Kindle there is a better way. You can change the text size, font style, and line spacing. If i see too much text, i can just turn the size up and it’s instantly easier to read!

If that doesn’t work, i can always turn on text-to-speech and have my Kindle read to me whilst i follow along.

I have a bad habit of ignoring words i don’t know. I often just make an assumption of what it probably means, using the context to help me guess. Using a dictionary is terribly frustrating for me because it feels like a bombardment of information. It can take me up to 5 minutes to find something in a dictionary. But hooray! The Kindle has a built-in dictionary!

Kindle looking up a word in the built-in dictionary

All i have to do is move the cursor next to a word i don’t understand, and it looks up the meaning for me! I have often been surprised that the meaning i guessed was completely wrong! I have learnt many words this way. I can highlight the word and add a note for myself if i want to.

Kindle search

Another great feature of the Kindle is its search. I don’t remember character names very easily, but with the search i can easily find out where that character was last mentioned and refresh my memory. It saves so much time and frustration wildly flicking forwards and backwards taking random guesses and having to waste time reading unnecessarily.

With a paper book, i always like to turn it on end to see how far through i am. It’s a little motivator for me. With a Kindle i get even better feedback: a small progress bar on the bottom shows the percentage that i have read. It feels like an achievement every time i see that number increase.

Even a little thing like finding my place again when coming back to a book is easier with a Kindle. Sure, i use a bookmark for paper books, but they usually have so many words on a page that it’s hard to find the spot again. With a Kindle it automatically remembers where i got to. Since i have few words on a page, i don’t mind reading the whole page again, or even going back a page to remember where i was.

There are many widely publicised good reasons for getting a Kindle, but i really think that more should be said about its benefits for dyslexia. These may only seem like small advantages to other people, but for me, anything that removes obstacles to reading means i have far more motivation to read, and i am much more likely to enjoy it.

I found that Jane Eyre is availably for free in the Amazon book store. I think most of the classics are free. I am amazed to find that i am really enjoying the story, it is far more intriguing than i remembered. I’m even reading the study guide that i got to help with my GCSE and now i find that, without the pressure of essays and exams, i am fascinated by the techniques of the author and how the story is put together. Who would have thought?!

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40 comments on “Fight dyslexia with a Kindle!

  1. This is a good post, Aimee! You make a lot of good points here, and although I don’t think I suffer from dyslexia myself, nevertheless I think that I (and perhaps many other people) could benefit from some of the features you mention: searching for a character’s name sounds particularly useful, since I tend to lose track of this kind of thing myself in a complicated story!

    Sadly, I don’t have much time for reading these days (I have a lot of time for audiobooks though). If things were different, I think I would probably buy a Kindle too.

    • I agree, these are benefits for everybody, but they are maybe not publicised as much as they could be, perhaps because they are not considered particularly significant. However, for me, anything that can make reading easier is extremely significant. It’s sad to say that i give up easily at any obstacle, so removing those obstacles means i’m more likely to enjoy a book and finish it.

  2. Hi Aimee

    I have a Kindle as I am a passionate reader and it’s so great to have loads to read when I am travelling. I have to be honest and say that I prefer ‘real’ books when at home.
    However I teach learners with dyslexia and am very interested in your take on Kindles. I will share your ideas with my students.
    Many thanks

    • Hello Hilery. I’m glad you found it interesting, and i hope you can help your students to decide whether a Kindle might be useful for some of them.

  3. Great post babe! :-)

    You put it’s advantages for the dyslexic
    person, together in a very solid way.

    More should be made aware of these features.
    Cheers,
    ~T.

  4. A great read and always refreshing to hear from another dyslexic :) The way you describe your brain blocking when presented with a whole page is so true, I tend to skip through and skim read as I find it easier to deal with. Not great for work documents though.

    I have resisted the kindle idea as I don;t read that much blaming time but I also wonder if it is as I find it hard to do and enjoy as you have said.

    Thanks for sharing :)

    • Hi. I have to say, i really didn’t expect the kindle to be as good as it is. i was very surprised at how helpful it has been for me.

  5. I’ve just found a video on the TED site about a new kind of soft book. The choice of title has generated some controversy in the comments, but I think the book looks great, and does things that I assumed would be the logical continuation of what Kindle is doing now. I’d be interested to hear perspectives on this from dyslexic people: do the new features shown here help with reading difficulties, hinder, or have no real impact? In any case, they’re clever!

    • Thanks Mike. I finally got around to watching this a few days ago, and really liked what i saw.

  6. Thanks for writing this article. I’m dyslexic and thinking of getting a kindle, so this was very useful.

    Another question could be – if you were designing an e-reader, how would you make it dyslexic friendly?

    All the best.

    Rod

  7. I’ve been struggling with dyslexia for years. I am approach my thirties and I must say I’ve only recently started to enjoy reading, using the Kindle (not only books that is).

    The gray background and high contrast/DPI are very pleasant, and the larger font sizes makes it a lot easier to read. Although I personally would like to see the option to even further increase the line spacing, since that seems to be make a big difference.

    @Mike As a dyslectic I am not to enthusiastic about the readability of the iPad screen. Although it has a great screen for interactive (video) content, you simple can not compare it to ease and readability of the Kindle.

    Interactive and visual content can be a great way to better illustrate/clarify the vision of the author. However, books often give the reader room to form their own interpretation, to imagine how things look, feel, smell. Ask someone to read a book, and then show them a movie based on the same story. You will probably find that there can be huge differences between the reader his/her interpretation and that of the movie director(s). This room for imagination is what attracts me to reading books.

    Video and audio are great for dyslectics to explore and understand content, but limited in some ways. Being able to ‘just read’ has opened a whole new world for me.

    • Hi Gawin, thank you for sharing your thoughts so openly. I really like what you said about people forming their own interpretation of a book, when it is not handed to them directly.

      I agree with you, greater line spacing would help. i also wish kindle would not insist on justifying to both sides of the page, as it sometimes causes unnatural gaps between words. i prefer text to be left-justified only.

  8. I don’t really like full justification either: in fact, I believe that most style guidelines for typesetting frown upon it. It was used in newspapers for years to make the columns look neater but I don’t think it’s used very much now in printed books, and it’s a little odd that it should be used for the Kindle.

  9. My son is twelve and has dyslexia. We’ve been using my Kindle with him for a couple years now. I agree with you Sermoa that this should be talked about more. There are some unique benefits for younger kids such as, frineds not being able to see the cover of the book you are reading (if it happens to be a lower level book) and less intimidation from the thickness of a book. My son would refuse anything that looked too long. I blogged about these reasons and others here – http://www.jennascribbles.com/kindle/are-kindles-good-for-struggling-readers/

    My son has made great strides in his reading and I feel the Kindle has been a big part of this.

    ~ Jenna

      • You’re welcome. Now with the newer, cheaper Kindles I think more and more people will be owning them. :-)

        I still prefer the plain Kindles – not the Fire or one that is a tablet. My son can get distracted quite easily so having a device that is for reading only…. and not Angry Birds, is a better idea. :-)

        Maybe he’ll be getting on of the Kindle Touch devices for his birthday.

        Actually I fall into the ‘easily distracted’ category myself. ha ha

        Jenna

  10. We got our dyslexic daughter a Kindle last Christmas. She hasn’t stopped reading since. She likes the text to speech option and listens to the book and reads along. She has even been reading long hardcover books, with no pictures. Before they would have been just too overwhelming for her. She takes it everywhere. We have trouble keeping her in gift cards, she is reading so much. We’ve requested that the use of her Kindle for Literature be included in her 504 plan and the school was readily agreeable. We have to pay for the books if they aren’t available for free, but it is so worth it for her to be able to be a successful reader along with her class.

    We also got our older daughter a Kindle. She uses hers for her AP Literature class. As stated many of the classics are available for free at http://www.gutenberg.org/. Her teacher required all the AP students to have a Kindle. She can make notes to the students and communicate with them via the Kindle. The students can make all the annotations they need to make with the kindle. No more sticky notes. They have the dictionary on hand and can look up words immediately.

    Kindle’s are a great tool for dyslexic and traditional learners.

  11. I’m a bit late to this post but I found it extremely helpful. I’m thinking of getting my 9 year old daughter a Kindle for her birthday as she is dyslexic and just overwhelmed but pages and pages of dense type. She gains no pleasure from reading and is reluctant to read anything for herself. I hadn’t thought to get the version with the electronic ‘voice’. I’m in two minds whether that would help her if she gets stuck or will encourage her to ‘cheat’ and not read the words herself, although I suppose reading along to the voice could help her.

    Anyway, thanks for the great post.

    • I would definitely recommend it. Maybe reading along with the spoken voice will encourage your daughter. Quite often if i like a story i’m more eager to read it again. Or if i’ve seen a film adaptation, then it makes me more inclined to read the book. These things do help a lot.

    • Actually, simultaneously reading and hearing the text will stimulate different senses (sight/hearing) and will make it easier to focus on the text (less room for distraction). I wouldn’t call it cheating, but please make sure that you often alternate between both senses.

  12. Omg I have dyslexia to and I never liked reading when I was in school I only read when I had to. The first book I read all the way through was the Princess Diaries I would pick up book every now again. Now that I got a kindle I reading all the time love to read. I love Dictionary it helps me understand words that I can’t read. Like extracurricular the dictionary spaces them out so I can read a hard word ex.tra.cur.ric.u.lar I use to skip words that where to hard to read. I would like to thank kindle for opening the world of books to people like us. If not for them I may have not be read as much as I do now.

  13. Omg I have dyslexia as well And I too have a kindle and I love reading now more then I have ever before. I never liked reading. I only read because I was told I had to but never understood what I was reading. The first book a finished reading was Princess diaries in paper back. The words on the paper were to small and they always seemed to collide with one anther. Now that They made reading easier I see words a hole lot clearer now. It like a hole new world out there for people like us. If not for Dictionary I would have just skipped the words I couldn’t read. I love how the Dictionary helps you sound out a word by spacing the word out ex•pec•ta•tion and then gives the mean to word of cours. Thanks you kindle for helping us read. Thanks for this blog I hope more and people read this.

    • you’re right, it is so helpful how it breaks up the words. I learnt so many nice new words from reading Jane Eyre. without the kindle dictionary I would have just ignored them. now I am reading Wuthering Height :)

  14. My 12 year old daughter has dyslexia and never finishes reading a book. I took my kindle on holiday and she asked to see it. In 5 days she read 2 books saying how much easier it was. She has now asked me to buy her one in order that she can catch up with her school reading !! I am impressed with the difference it has made to her confidence.

  15. I think I will buy a Kindle for my birthday. I have struggled for years with reading and writing, and I think this may be the answer for me. I’m excited. Thanks for sharing!

  16. I work with a number of dyslexic kids, and one has reported the same- I think a lot of it is to do with the “Greyscale” background- the white of paper is just too stressful- he’s come on leaps and bounds, and now loves to read- not a lot of 13 year old dyslictics will say that!! Good old kindle eh?!

    • You are right, Helen, the grey background is another benefit of the kindle over white paper! Definitely easier to read. Thanks for pointing out that additional advantage! :D

  17. Hi very interesting lm thinking of getting a kindle.In my 40s and have always loved words but found read frustating being dylslexic!

  18. I want to get my daughter one now! I’m torn as to which one to get tho, the new one the old one this ‘nook’ one??? Would anyone recommend one they think for a dyslexic child desperate to be better at reading?

    • If i were to get a new one now, i’d get the Paperwhite. It looks so good and clear to read. I don’t know anything about the Nook so i can’t comment, but i’m sure it has similar features. Do a bit of investigating.

  19. I have never been tested for dyslexia, but despite being generally perceived as being ‘bright’ I have always struggled to read, which has been a source of great frustration for me because I do get a lot of satisfaction from escaping into a text if I can just get into it!

    The net result was that I had shelves of unread books staring down at me, making me feel guilty and fraudulent – it’s a major reason I underperformed academically and never really got anywhere near completing a PhD.

    When the kindle came out in the UK I hesitated before buying it. Although I love gadgets, I was conscious that this would probably be another 5 minute wonder that would quickly be relegated to the shelf unused. However, I have in to temptation and bought one anyway.

    It was the best electronics buy I have ever made, and by a long way. I’m not exactly sure why (though the % counter, the lack of a need to turn a page and be faced with a slab of text, the variable text size, the sync to my phone and the text to voice when I first started are candidates), but I find actually getting through books so much easier with kindle, to the extend that I am now reading as many books as I used to buy and leave unread, and I’m buying many more to read later – all this despite actually having less free time than I used to!

  20. I am very excited to hear all of these comments about the kindel. My daughter is dyslexic and a sophomore in high school. I would like her to be able to listen to the book while she reads along. Is the voice a computerized voice or can you get a real human voice?

    • The current Paperwhite versions do NOT support audio.
      The Kindle Fire does support audio, but does not have a e-ink screen.

      The older Kindle’s do support audio with a headphone jack, both computerised reading and MP3 playback. You might find an older Kindle that supports audio on eBay.

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