Let’s read … A Guest Blog from our Really Useful Dyslexia Specialist – Glynis Allen

Glynis AllenWhether it’s the Internet, newspapers, books or magazines …. we now rely so much on the printed word for our information or news. The printed word is also a significant part of our education and ultimately, our access to knowledge. Qualifications are also mainly gained from written examinations that again show that our abilities are often measured through reading. But what exactly is going on when we do read?

Reading makes considerable demands on us that are quite different from when we are speaking. For example, we have to know what sounds each letter represents and then we have to be aware how to put these sounds together to form words. You may have come across the term ‘phonological awareness’? Well that’s it in a nutshell!

Research by Uta Frith and colleagues has shown that instead of rapidly knowing what a written word sounds like, a person with dyslexia will have to think about each word they see and consciously translate it from one form to another. Therefore you may get around this issue by using other pathways in your brain and which you may notice appear a lot worse under stress? It may also make your feel quite tired from this extra sustained effort required for any work involving language. Other characteristics can also include:

  • Skipping words or lines
  • Reading slowly or hesitantly
  • Reading but with little understanding
  • Misread letters or words eg. saw for was  – or even miss out whole chunks of text
  • Read – but with many errors
  • Avoid reading altogether

As  adults, the pathways in our brain are now established, so which difficulties in reading frustrate the most? There are several flexible reading strategies that can be used so as to make more sense from reading text. Remember – it isn’t always necessary to read every single word on every single line, particularly if you experience visual difficulties. (This is when the text can appear distorted including blurring, movement of letters or flickering but significantly, is not connected to any other underlying health problem. This aspect of reading difficulty also known as visual stress or scotopic sensitivity and can be experienced by people who do not have dyslexia and therefore will be explored within the next blog).

Different things work well for different people –  so now check out some of the following techniques. You may also like to add to some of your own or share them with other RUS followers?

Basically, it’s all about the chunking ….

  • Chunk it down – read only what you need. Take regular breaks if you are reading something that demands a high level of concentration.
  • Pick out keywords, use an electronic dictionary, making notes of any words that cause particular problems.
  • Experiment with highlighters to colour any relevant sections of text.
  • Make written instructions personal to you – draw pictures or record the instructions onto your phone.
  • On the Internet, try a text to speech software.
  • Listen to the TV or radio as an alternative source of news and current affairs.
  • Read the headlines in a newspaper or magazine and then the first and last paragraphs to get an overview. Then read one paragraph at a time whilst asking yourself what the topic was mainly about.
  • Try listening to your favourite book or watch it on a DVD. Compare the two?
  • Use a reading ruler to track sections of text.


Tracking is simply how easily your eyes follow the print across a page. If you find tracking difficult, this may account for a slower reading speed. Try using your finger or a pencil to trace the word or try some of the products now listed on RUS that allow your eyes to isolate selected sections of text whilst restricting pattern and  glare to a minimum.

Familiarity with common letter patterns is important to all readers and breaking letters into meaningful units will develop greater accuracy and understanding. Developing preferred tracking strategies will also continue in helping develop memory traces of difficult words as you read.

I hope this short blog has given you a better understanding about how you read and what you can do to get more enjoyment with your reading.

The RUS team would like to thank Glynis for yet another ‘really useful’ blog.

Don’t forget that our RUS shop is full of great products to help you if you struggle with reading.