Aaron Slater, Illustrator

Aaron Slater, Illustrator
Andrea Beaty and David Roberts
Abrams Books for Young Readers

It’s such a joy to see a child whose neurodiversity is celebrated in the latest of the Questioneers series.

The titular Aaron D. Slater, of this rhyming picture book, is based on Aaron Douglas, the African American painter, muralist, and graphic artist, who was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance movement.

As a very young child there’s nothing Aaron loves more than to sit in the old garden swing and listen to others reading to him, and he aspires to be a writer of stories in the future.

First though he has to learn to read and to write, both of which on account of his dyslexia,
he finds challenging. ‘the words are just squiggles, and try as he might, even with help Aaron can’t get it right.’

Once he starts school, Aaron who also loves to draw, decides that rather than show his feelings, the best thing to do is to try to blend in with his classmates.

In his second year at school Aaron has a new teacher and she sets the class a story writing assignment. That night the boy spends all night attempting to write “a story. Write something true.” as his teacher has said.

Filled with fear the following morning, at Miss Greer’s behest he stands before his classmates and suddenly Aaron finds his voice: ‘beauty and kindness and loving and art / lend courage to all with a welcoming heart.’

So it is that he begins to find his own way of using visual images to create stories: ‘His art makes the difference. His art leads the way and helps him discover what he wants to say.’

This superb tale of creativity, acceptance and finding your own way to transcend insecurities and challenges, will be an inspiration to all youngsters, in particular those who like Aaron, struggle with reading and spelling. (The book is set in Dyslexie, a dyslexia-friendly typeface and David Roberts, creator of the stylish illustrations, tells in a final note how he himself has struggled with reading and spelling, making those superb spreads wherein Aaron’s images literally take flight, all the more powerful.)

I Don’t Like Reading

I Don’t Like Reading
Lisabeth Emlyn Clark
Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Meet Harry: he likes lots of different things – drawing dinosaurs, playing football, climbing trees and playing with his friend, Tom; but if there’s one thing Harry doesn’t like, it’s reading. In fact he hates it. The words tend to make him feel dizzy; they might look so tiny he can barely see them, or huge and blurry.
Reading for Harry is total frustration and it’s worse because his little sister is always asking him to read to her.
Worst of all though, is having to read aloud at school. The mere thought of it gives him tummy ache so nervous is he.
One night though, he tells his mum how he feels.

She speaks to his teacher and from then on, with a team of helpers including the special needs coordinator and an educational psychologist, together with some aids such as coloured acetate, and Harry’s own willingness to try hard, he realises that he can read and keep on improving.
‘Harry is a very clever young boy with a dyslexic profile,’ explains the letter his mum receives a few weeks later.
And then, gradually, read he does, especially to his sister.
Written by someone who was diagnosed with dyslexia in her late teens, this illustrated story, with its strategic use of different fonts gives a taster of what reading is like for Harry and perhaps for others with dyslexia. Harry however was lucky in that his issues were dealt with relatively quickly: not everyone is that fortunate. Children who have reading problems, whether or not they have a dyslexia diagnosis shouldn’t beat themselves up about it; rather they need to treat themselves kindly and not be afraid of asking for help; this little book will, I hope, help them do just that.
All our brains are different: we all need to follow different paths to become readers.