Crime fiction writer Jay Stringer is a prolific and celebrated author. But when he was a boy growing up in Scotland, he deeply struggled to learn how to read even the simplest texts. What he discovered later was that he was dyslexic – and more importantly, that he could unlock the literary world through comic books despite his diagnosis.
“I’m dyslexic,” he wrote in an article for Book Riot. “I could have been one of those left behind, but comic books pulled me out.”
Stringer is far from alone. Over the years, those with dyslexia have discovered time and time again that comic books and graphic novels are wonderful -- and sometimes vital -- resources, both for initially learning to read and for truly enjoying reading.
Why? These books pair illustrations with words, allowing readers to glean information from more sources than words alone. At the same time, they don’t contain huge blocks of text, which can be overwhelming, intimidating, and tiring for those who struggle to process the written word.
"Comics were a clever trick to entice me into reading more even after I was tired of working that part of my brain," said James Barclay, another person with dyslexia who found comic books were vital in helping him learn to read, stay interested in reading, and follow written narratives.
Today, comic books and graphic novels are firmly established learning tools for students with a dyslexia diagnosis -- not to mention enjoyable reads for any student who loves mixed media and page-turning action.
During Dyslexia Awareness Month, consider donating a few graphic novels or comics to your local school or library, checking out some books yourself, or simply learning more about what dyslexia is as well as what it isn’t.
Making Comic Books Even Better For Readers With Dyslexia
While comic books are great for readers with dyslexia, there are a few simple changes that comic book publishers could make to increase accessibility even more. Writer Christine Ro points out that comic book fonts could be improved so that are easier to read. Currently, traditional comic book style involves all-caps dialogue, when those with dyslexia find it easiest to read mix-capped, sans-serif fonts.
It’s Also Health Literacy Month
In addition to Dyslexia Awareness Month, it’s also Health Literacy Month, a month that is all about focusing on reading, understanding, and acting upon health information. Did you know that 9 out of 10 adults have difficulty utilizing health information that they read -- and that there are often not readily-available age-appropriate resources for kids who are diagnosed with health issues or conditions?
This month, and every month, make an effort to learn more about health literacy, whether you are better trying to understand a dyslexia diagnosis for you or your child, or trying to learn more about any disease, illness, or condition.
Here are some quick tips:
- If you don’t understand something, ask your doctor to use more familiar language.
- Take notes during doctors’ appointments or while reading health literature. Write down questions to ask your doctor or health provider.
- Ask your doctor to direct you toward appropriate, accurate resources after your appointment.
- Ask your local librarian for help seeking accurate health information, either in books and article or from online sources.
- Check out Jumo’s age-appropriate health resources for the whole family.
About Sarah Aswell
Sarah Aswell is a freelance writer who lives in Missoula, Montana with her husband and two daughters. Her writing has appeared in publications that include The New Yorker, Healthline, Success Magazine, Working Mother, and Scary Mommy.