Dyslexic Characters in Children’s Literature

October is Dyslexic Awareness Month and we can’t think of a better way to raise awareness than to spotlight six of our favorite children’s books that feature dyslexic characters.

Three million people in the United States are diagnosed with dyslexia each year. One in five children have this neurological condition that creates difficulty in reading, memorizing, and interpreting words, letters, symbols, and their subsequent sounds. It does not affect general intelligence, and dyslexic readers often think more creatively and have stronger critical thinking skills.

It’s not a disease so there is no cure. Early diagnosis is key so that learning is approached from different angles. Understanding the restrictions avoids frustration and brain-fatigue, and finding ways to work around them using multisensory structured learning incorporates touch, movement, sight, and hearing.

Seeing characters in books work around their dyslexia shows young readers that they’re intelligent, that their efforts matter, and that needing more time to process is okay. This can open doors of self-worth—and book covers—that might be previously closed.

Chapter Book (Ages 7-10)

Niagara Falls, Or Does It? Hank Zipzer #1 by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver

Inspired by the true life experiences of Henry Winkler, whose undiagnosed dyslexia made him a classic childhood underachiever, the Hank Zipzer series is about the high-spirited and funny adventures of a boy with learning differences.

It’s science project time in Ms. Adolf’s class. This is good news and bad news for Hank-he loves science, but he hates the report part. So Hank turns to TV to take his mind off things. But when the program directory scrolls by too quickly for Hank to know what’s on, he decides to take apart the cable box to try to slow down the crawl. Great! Now Hank has found the perfect science project! But what he wasn’t counting on was his sister’s pet iguana laying eighteen eggs in the disassembled cable box. How is Hank going to get out of this one?

Middle Grade (Ages 8-12)

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

The author of the beloved One for the Murphys gives readers an emotionally-charged, uplifting novel that will speak to anyone who’s ever thought there was something wrong with them because they didn’t fit in.

“Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.”

Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions. She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure unintelligence? However, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike.

This story has all the heart-squishes in it. Yes, I cried.

The Lightning Thief Percy Jackson & the Olympians series by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school . . . again. And that’s the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he’s angered a few of them. Zeus’s master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect. Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus’s stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

Taking what the character considers his weakness and making it his strength? Absolutely brilliant. In my opinion, that’s what makes this series about a dyslexic demigod resonate with so many readers.

Two-Minute Drill by Mike Lupica

Chris Conlan is the coolest kid in sixth grade–the golden-armed quarterback of the football team and the boy all the others look up to. Scott Parry is the new kid, the boy with the huge brain, but with feet that trip over themselves. These two boys may seem like an odd couple, but each has a secret that draws them together, and proves that the will to succeed is even more important than raw talent.

Double Dutch by Sharon Draper

Delia loves Double Dutch. And she’s good at it. Really good. So good that her team has a chance to win the World Double Dutch Championships this year — Delia is sure of it. What she is less sure of is her chance of passing the school’s state exam, because Delia has been using her success at Double Dutch to mask a secret that could jeopardize her place on the team, and also her future.
Delia’s not the only one with a secret. Her potential boyfriend, Randy, has one too — his dad has been missing for weeks, and Randy hasn’t told anyone for fear he’ll be put in a foster home. But he is running out of money and getting scared.

The one thing that isn’t a secret is that their classmates, the Tolliver twins, are out to cause trouble. With their skull caps, angry demeanors, and hints of violence emanating from even the way they stalk down the school halls, they seem to enjoy intimidating the other kids. But will they cross the line from intimidation to violence?

With consummate skill and an uncanny ability to capture how real kids think, act, and feel, Tears of a Tiger author Sharon M. Draper weaves these three stories tighter and tighter, creating a novel that tingles with suspense and emotion.

YA (Ages 13 +)

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist.

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. . . .

A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

What are some of your favorite books that feature dyslexic characters?

Want to get your hands on some of these amazing books that show reading is accessible to all? Stop in during our open hours (terms and conditions apply). We’re still doing curbside pick-up, appointments, and shipping as well.

Happy reading!

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