Book review: Dyslexia is my Superpower

Dyslexia is My Superpower (Most of the Time). Interviews by Margaret Rooke. Reviewed by Salvesen Mindroom Centre team

Book cover of Dyslexia is my superpower

Date published: 2017

Paperback price: £9.35

Link to Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Reviewer: Salvesen Mindroom Centre Team

Reviewer expertise: Directly supporting families of children with learning difficulties including dyslexia.

What is the book about and who is it aimed at?

The book is about children and teenagers with dyslexia all over the world, told from the point-of-view of the young people themselves. They give an insight into what dyslexia is like for them, the challenges it brings but with a major focus on dyslexia as a “superpower”.

The book contains tips for teachers and the author acknowledges a need for adults such as parents, teachers and politicians, to listen to young people with dyslexia. However, the target audience for the book is somewhat unclear. We think it gives an insight into dyslexia for those who have little or no prior knowledge and feel it would be most helpful for children and young people with dyslexia themselves, in view of the many positive stories contained in the book.

A brief description of the book.

The book begins with forewords by Catherine L Drennan, Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and UK rapper Loyle Carner, who both have dyslexia. These forewords provide an optimistic introduction to the book which continues throughout. They provide real life examples of successful adults with dyslexia but also acknowledge the challenges that they have faced throughout their journey to success. These forewords set us up for a book which clearly values the personal experiences of those with dyslexia.  

The book is made up of interviews of children and young people with dyslexia. Each child describes their experience of dyslexia in their own words, with individual artwork scattered throughout the book illustrating their experiences.

The book is split into themed chapters including “Being different”, “Being diagnosed” and “Top dyslexia tips”. These chapters work as a rough guideline as to the content of the interviews however there is a degree of overlap across the chapters as these young people’s experiences naturally do not fit neatly into categories.

Is the content in line with best practice or research evidence?

Despite an existing wealth of research around dyslexia, there is no reference to this within the book. We feel this would have been particularly helpful for professionals in understanding the diagnosis of dyslexia and guiding best practice. The international context of the book makes it more difficult to reference best practice as this can vary across the globe, but it does give an insight into what has worked well or what has been difficult for children and young people with dyslexia. It may have been more helpful if the interviews in the book had been contextualised with research or common themes explored more explicitly for the reader.

Who would this book be helpful for?

As mentioned above, we are uncertain who the target reader is however we feel that the book would be best directed at children and young people. The child-centred nature of the book is empowering for younger readers and gives them the opportunity to connect with others in similar situations. It has an optimistic outlook and provides stories of success experienced by young people with dyslexia. This allows the reader to identify positive role models and explore strategies mentioned by the interviewees to facilitate success. It is unsurprising that many of the young people have similar experiences of dyslexia, therefore the book can be repetitive at times and is better for dipping into, rather than as one read-through. The format of the book allows the reader to pick and choose which interviews they read and the interviews are sorted into loose themes to help guide this. 

This book could also be helpful for somebody with little or no experience of dyslexia and gives a flavour of both the “superpowers” and challenges that accompany it.

For parents or professionals who are looking for a more in-depth understanding of dyslexia, a summary of the interviews could support them to gain a clearer understanding of the key themes and tips that can be garnered from the young people’s accounts. Whilst the tips section at the back is a great concept, perhaps it would have been more useful to link these to specific themes rather than specific cases to make the tips more generalisable. It is worth bearing in mind whilst reading the book that available supports, policies and assessment procedures differ both within and between countries, and that the experiences in the book are anecdotal. For example, some young people reference having to pay for a dyslexia assessment, however this may not always be the case depending on their country or region.  

What is your final, overall opinion on the book?

Overall, we feel this book could be helpful for children and young people with dyslexia as it includes positive stories that they may identify with.

The text in the book is quite dense and it might be helpful to consider different ways to support young people with reading it, for example, many of the young people in the book found reading with their parents helpful.

The illustrations by the young people being interviewed serve as a break from the text making it slightly more accessible to those with dyslexia and provide a creative way for the young people to illustrate their experiences, as many of the young people expressed an interest in the arts. For parents and professionals who are looking for a more in-depth understanding of dyslexia and how to support young people with it, this book may not provide enough general advice or specific information about dyslexia itself. However, if you are looking for a broad overview or a gentle starting point, this book could be a helpful resource to refer to.