You are about to read a summary of the book, Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz, MD.

This book is a comprehensive book for parents and teachers who want to know more about dyslexia.  Ms. Shaywitz is a renowed author and speaker for the cause of learning disabilities.  She is also a neuroscientist, and Professor of Pediatrics at Yale.

She explains the myths that surround this disability. The book instructs parents on how they can help their child who has been diagnosed with dyslexia.  She lays out a program that will help parents every step of the way with grade to grade suggestions.

On this page:

Dyslexia Definition

Title:           Overcoming Dyslexia
Author:       Sally Shaywitz, MD
Publisher:   Alfred A Knopf, New York, 2003

According to Dr. Shaywitz, “dyslexia reflects difficulty getting to the basic sounds of language.”  This difficulty often requires the student to focus more intently while reading and therefore looks like the dyslexia student isn’t attentive.

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Reading Success

According to Dr. Shaywitz a student “with a reading disability who is not identified early may require as much as 150 – 300 hours of intensive instruction.”  Her advice for intensive instruction would be at least 90 minutes a day for 4 or 5 days a week over 1 to 3 years.

Getting early help is a necessity if you want your child to have reading success.  Don’t wait for teachers, school personnel or relatives to say, “just wait, they’ll outgrow this stage!”  The earlier your child gets help the more likely he will be to be a successful reader.

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Dr. Shaywitz says this about fluency, “fluency forms the bridge between decoding and comprehension…”

Four correct readings are needed for automatic recognition of any word.  Accuracy doesn’t always translate to fluency.  Silent readings don’t help fluency.

Students are expected to be fluent readers by the end of 2nd grade yet only 56% of 4th graders are fluent readers.  Repeated exposure to unknown words help with reading fluency.  It takes four readings of the same passage for automatic recognition of a word.

Success for teaching fluency:

·                  Focus on child’s oral reading.

·                  Practice by reading and rereading.

·                  Feedback as the child reads.

Teachers need to model modulation, stress on words and how to end a sentence or question.

Dr. Shaywitz says that repeat oral reading is a must!  She says that repeated readings for a dyslexic child may not help with fluency but it will help with word recognition.

A person with dyslexia processes words differently in the brain.  Many times words are mispronounced which makes storing and retrieving the word more difficult for a dyslexic.  These difficult words need to be practiced again and again orally with a teacher or parent so that the student will be able to build “the neural model for that word and connect relevant information to it.”

A dyslexic needs to over learn!  Repetition, drill and practice are the key words.  Just as an athlete over trains their specific motor skills a dyslexic must over learn so that there is no active attention or conscious that so that automaticity develops.

Repeated readings of paragraphs, phrases, and words are a must!  Practice, practice, practice is the key to fluency which leads to better comprehension.  The more fluent a reader, the better comprehension will be.

Reading fun short poetry is a good method for practice reading. Read 5 – 6 minutes a day to practice fluency.

Do this with paragraphs, phrases or single words. Choose only one of these methods per day to practice.

Fourth grade reading becomes more difficult because there is a tremendous surge in irregular words.  This is why reading practice 5 to 6 minutes a day becomes so crucial.

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Correct Words Read Graph

Dr. Shaywitz says that the following should be the increase in correct words read per minute per week:

Grade                         Realistic                         Ambitious

1st                             2 wpm                           3 wpm
2nd                            1.50 wpm                      2 wpm
3rd                             1 wpm                          1.50 wpm
4th                              .85 wpm                      1.10 wpm
5th                              .50 wpm                        .80 wpm
6th                              .30 wpm                        .65 wpm


  1. Select 2 or 3 paragraphs from passages he has already read.  He should know 19 out of 20 words.

  2. Have him read as quickly and accurately as possible.

  3. Time and mark (on a separate copy) words he doesn’t know.  If he self corrects in 3 seconds, the word is counted correctly.  If he doesn’t get the word in 3 seconds, give it to him.

  4. Count the number of words.  Subtract the incorrect ones, X by 60.  Take the total divide by 60 will equal CWPM (correct words per minute). OR have the student read for 1 minute and stop.  Count the number of words read and subtract the incorrect ones.  This will be CWPM.

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Here are some ways to enhance comprehension before you read the book, as you read the book and after you read the book:

  • BEFORE YOU READ THE BOOK:  Look at the cover and discuss what the book might be about.  Open the book and point out things in the pictures the child needs to know.  Maps or other visuals may help with understanding.

  • AS YOU READ THE BOOK:  Within the first paragraph or two ask the reader what they know so far about the character and what might happen.  Who, What, Where, How, Why questions are the keys to understanding the foundation of the story.

    Ask your child what different phrases mean.  Focus in on some new vocabulary words.

    Periodically ask the student to summarize what has already happened.  Before reading the last chapter or pages have him predict what might happen.

  • AFTER YOU READ THE BOOK:  Ask the student who their favorite character was and why.  Have the child make a story board showing one event in each chapter.

    Ask the reader if they have a different ending for the book.

  • GET A LIBRARY CARD:  Go to story time at the library or local book store.  As soon as it is allowed, get a library card for your child.  Help them pick books that will interest them.

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Making Reading Fun

Here are some fun reading activities you can try with your children:

  •  Word mystery – finding out how to say a new word and learning new definitions.

  • Explore new places that you would never travel to outside of a book.

  • Become the character.  Dress up as that character while reading the book.

  • Be the Character by eating, drinking acting like the character.

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Reading With Your Child

Read with your child at least four times a week.  This means your child should be reading to you as well as you reading to them.  It doesn’t have to be an hour.  Reading just 10 to 15 minutes consistently three or four times a week will give your child a leg above the average reader.  If your child has a learning disability, then it is doubly important to read together nightly.

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Teaching Vocabulary

Most words are learned implicitly, through everyday usage.  If taught explicitly, then use words within their readings.  Words should also be within their sphere of influence and background knowledge so that the meaning of the word will mean something. Learning words for the sake of learning a word is not useful because the child won’t bother to use the word and it will soon be forgotten.

Vocabulary Activities

Have students write down two unfamiliar words from each chapter.  Then have them look up the words in the dictionary and a thesaurus to find the definition and other words which mean the same thing and opposites.

Post one of the words on the bulletin board or refrigerator.  Everyday have your child use it in a sentence.

Give rewards for each time the student uses the word correctly without your prompting.

If the word is a place like the Eiffel Tower, then some background knowledge will be needed to understand what this is.  Using a map to show that this place is in Paris and that Paris is in France and France is in Europe will help students have a visual clue as well as reviewing (or introducing) them to places in the world.

The larger a child’s vocabulary bank, the easier it will be for the student to relate to new information.

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A Reading Program

Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing Program is best used for students who have a speech impediment which hinders learning to read words correctly.   The method focuses on position of the lips as sounds are formed.  It is labor intensive as it often requires four hours a day to be administered effectively and requires trained Lindamood teachers.  This program has been effective with dyslexics.

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Reading List for High School 

The following are readings for dyslexic high school students:

Book:                                                    Author:      

Something Up Stairs                                  Avi
Death Grip                                                J. Bennett

The Shadow Brothers                                 A. Cannon

Freedom Crossing                                      M. Clark

Children of the River                                  L. Crew

The Trouble with Lemons                            D. Hayes

Letters from Rifka                                      K. Hesse

Bearstone                                                 W. Hobbs

A Place to Belong                                       J. Nixon

Blizzard                                                     J. O’Connor

Canyons                                                   G. Paulsen

Fine White Dust                                         C. Rylant

The Road to Memphis                                 M. Taylor

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Teaching Adults

Adults learn well in groups and should be taught:

4x/per week at 1 ½  - 2 hour classes
2x/per week for 3 hour classes

Expected improvement is about 1 grade level for every 100 hours of instruction.  Practice outside of class will speed the improvement gap faster.

Assistive technology is very useful for those that struggle with reading due to dyslexia or other learning problems.

The Connect Pen provides audible translation of any written material. This is acceptable in most schools and workplaces.  For anyone learning a new language these types of pens are available in the language being learned.  For instance the pen would read French and translate it to English.

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