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 …
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!
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.
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?!