21 Helpful Books About Dyslexia for Parents and Educators

by Angie Barnett | Oct 19, 2017

21 Helpful Books About Dyslexia for Parents and Educators


Our Reading Horizons dyslexia experts, Donell Pons, M.Ed., MAT, SPED, and Shantell Berrett, MA, share their favorite books about dyslexia for both educators and parents:

1. Explicit Instruction: Effective and Efficient Teaching

Archer, A.L., and Hughes, C.A. (2011). Explicit instruction: Effective and efficient teaching. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Structured literacy (that includes explicit phonics instruction) is systematic, direct, engaging, and success-oriented—and has been shown to promote achievement for all students. This highly practical and accessible resource gives special and general education teachers the tools to implement explicit instruction in any grade level or content area. The authors are leading experts who provide clear guidelines for identifying key concepts, skills, and routines to teach, designing and delivering effective lessons, and giving students opportunities to practice and master new material. Sample lesson plans, lively examples, reproducible checklists, and teacher worksheets enhance the volume’s utility. Purchasers can also download and print the reproducible materials for repeated use. Video clips demonstrating the approach in real classrooms are available on the authors’ website.

Book summary retrieved here.

2. Why Kids Can’t Read: What Teachers Can Do: A Guide for Teachers

Beers, Kyleen. Why Kids Can’t Read: What Teachers Can Do: A Guide for Teachers 6-12. Heinemann, 2002.

This book is for educators and parents of students who never learned to read with confidence. Beers provides sensible solutions and teaching methods with practical means for delivering accommodations as educators in secondary settings act on helping students learn to read. Since Beers’s book appeared in 2002, it has been updated with Why Kids Can’t Read: Continuing to Challenge the Status Quo in Education. If the foreword to the book doesn’t compel educators, administrators, and parents to work together to act on reading challenges, nothing will. 

“The economic future of our society demands that we have a literate workforce. In our highly technological world, in this twenty-first century, we depend upon people having good reading skills in order for our nation to remain competitive in global markets. Throughout history too, denying people the right to read has been a powerful tool of governments to suppress their citizens and to control their intellectual growth. These governments take over newspapers, television, and radio and close libraries and burn books. In contrast, America respects the written word and views reading and writing as part of our individual freedoms. For these reasons and more, I believe we must all work together to provide our children with the reading skills they need to succeed in school, get meaningful jobs, and fully participate as citizens of our great nation.” —Richard W. Riley, former U.S. secretary of education and former governor of South Carolina.

3. Teaching Students with Dyslexia and Dysgraphia: Lessons from Teaching and Science

Berninger, V.W. and Wolf, B.J. (2009). Teaching students with dyslexia and dysgraphia: Lessons from teaching and science. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.

This book covers the following three learning disabilities that require differentiated instruction: dysgraphia, dyslexia, and oral and written language learning disability (OWL LD). This book prepares educators to teach students with learning differences in explicit, reflective, and intellectually engaging ways.

Ginger Berninger, a seasoned researcher and former teacher, partners with a 40-year teacher and teacher trainer veteran Beverly Wolf in this one-of-a-kind text that gives readers the best of both worlds: critical insights from scientific studies and lessons learned from actual teaching experience. Educators will get the research-based guidance they’ll need to organize their classrooms, routines, and lesson plans through differentiated instruction to meet the instructional needs of students with learning differences. Their peers will improve every aspect of students’ literacy, including reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills, by providing both oral and written language instruction.

Portions of the book summary can be retrieved here.

4. Developing Language and Literacy

Carroll, Julia, et al. Developing language and literacy. Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

Although focused mainly on studies conducted in England, Carroll and associates have provided a thoughtful and well-researched manual for examining reading difficulties and how to approach intervention. Chapter 2 should be read by every administrator, parent, and educator interested in understanding why many schools are performing so poorly in reading across the country. Within Chapter 2, Carroll establishes the protocol for determining the effectiveness of various reading interventions and explains how this information has either led to better instruction or greater misunderstanding.

5. Blueprint for a Literate Nation: How You Can Help

Coletti, Cynthia. Blueprint for a literate nation: how you can help. XLIBRIS, 2013.

Coletti approaches reading instruction and dyslexia from the perspective of a parent and CEO. Drawing heavily from researchers in the field, Ms. Coletti outlines how schools, districts, communities, and the government can change America’s reading profile. As a call to arms, this book is effective. The book’s last third has endless resources and the “blueprint” for a literate nation.

6. Book Smart: How to Develop and Support Successful, Motivated Readers

Cunningham, Anne and Zibulsky, Jamie. Book Smart: How to develop and support successful, motivated readers. Oxford University Press, 2014.

This is a top-down manual for helping students develop reading and writing skills. Not only does the book do a thorough job of explaining reading acquisition, but it’s also one of the rare volumes to tackle writing and how it correlates with reading. The first three-quarters of the book provides background in reading and writing acquisition, while the last quarter is full of useful activities to promote reading and writing competency. The manual uses approachable language with strategies that can be incorporated into the classroom or woven into a 15-minute nighttime read.

7. Reading in the Brain: The New Science of How We Read

Dehaene, Stanislas. Reading in the Brain: The new science of how we read. Penguin, 2010.

This is a fascinating book from a neuroscientist’s perspective regarding the brain and reading. Although often heavy in technical terminology, Dehaene is able to incorporate enough human experiences to bring the science to life. He also explores the oft-overlooked implications of vision on the reading experience.

8. The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s Confidence and Love of Learning

Foss, Ben. The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A blueprint for renewing your child’s confidence and love of learning. Ballantine Books, 2016.

Foss is an articulate and relatable advocate for children and families dealing with dyslexia and the school system. Through personal stories, Foss manages to commiserate while providing actionable ways to improve outcomes in school, work, and life. This is an excellent book for parents or students who are feeling overwhelmed by the implications of dyslexia and need encouragement.

9. Unlocking Literacy: Effective Decoding and Spelling Instruction

Henry, Marcia K. Unlocking Literacy: Effective Decoding and Spelling Instruction. Brooks Publishing, 2010.

After you have tutored countless students with dyslexia, one thing becomes apparent: poor spelling can linger long after decoding improves. Many English words do not respond to conventional sound-to-symbol spelling methods or syllable types. Students with dyslexia need a solid foundation of morphology, etymology, and orthography, which are the keys to truly unlocking encoding. Henry’s book provides a logical and effective way of approaching English spelling that offers every student the opportunity to spell (and understand) more words with confidence.

10. Equipped for Reading Success: A Comprehensive, Step-by-Step Program for Developing Phonemic Awareness and Fluent Word Recognition

Kilpatrick, David. Equipped for Reading Success: A comprehensive, step-by-step program for developing phonemic awareness and fluent word recognition. Casey & Kirsch Publishers, 2016.

Equipped for Reading Success is exactly what it says it is: a step-by-step guide to teaching phonemic awareness and fluent word recognition. Kilpatrick not only sets out a sensible, comprehensive plan for teaching students with reading difficulties but also includes instruction for educators so they can understand why they are teaching each concept. Kilpatrick includes important background on Ehri’s phases of sight word development to help educators, parents, and administrators understand the importance of orthography when remediating weak readers. He also spends an appropriate amount of time teaching the importance of orthography to ensure weak readers not only learn to read but also so they can spell. This should be required reading for every SPED para, teacher, parent, administrator, or anyone who makes important decisions about reading instruction for students. The last half of the manual includes materials for a solid reading program.

11. Essentials of Assessing, Preventing and Overcoming Reading Difficulties

Kilpatrick, David. Essentials of Assessing, Preventing and Overcoming Reading Difficulties. John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2015.

Kilpatrick has written perhaps one of the best books available to walk educators and parents through the often-complicated landscape of screening, assessing, and treating dyslexia. He provides a foundational understanding of why students may struggle with reading and how to interpret various screeners to improve instructional outcomes. Kilpatrick also provides well-researched evaluations of many of the latest and most popular reading programs.

12. Speech to Print: Language Essentials for Teachers

Moats, L.C. (2010). Speech to print: Language essentials for teachers. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.

This book provides teachers with the knowledge of language to explicitly and systematically teach phonemic awareness, word recognition, spelling, vocabulary, and comprehension. These elements will help teachers identify, explain, and solve the problems that students with or without disabilities may encounter when learning to read and write. This book contains much of the information given in the LETRS training for teachers created by the author, Lousia Cook Moats. The latest version provides an in-depth explanation of how the book aligns with current scientific research findings on reading, language, and spelling. It provides expanded information on the critical elements of language, including orthography, morphology, phonetics, phonology, semantics, and syntax. There are new and improved exercises teachers can use to test and reinforce their knowledge of language content and teaching activities that help teachers connect what they learn in their coursework with what they’ll be doing in the classroom.

A core textbook for every pre-service course on reading instruction, this accessible text is also perfect for in-service professional development sessions. Educators will have the knowledge they need to recognize, understand, and resolve their students’ reading and writing challenges—and will improve literacy outcomes for their entire class.

Book summary adapted and retrieved here.

13. Expert Perspectives on Interventions for Reading

Moats, L.C., Dakin, K.E., and Joshi, R.M. (Ed.). (2011). Expert perspectives on interventions for reading. Baltimore, MD: International Dyslexia Association.

This book brings together the most requested and timeless articles on key literacy-related topics from IDA’s Perspectives on Language and Literacy over the past decade. Inside, you will find a solid foundation of research-based, classroom-tested principles in a practice-ready format ideal for teachers, administrators, graduate and undergraduate students of education, and policymakers seeking gold standard solutions to the intractable problems of illiteracy.

Book summary adapted and retrieved here.

14. Helping Students Take Control of Everyday Executive Functions: The Attention Fix

Moraine, P.M. (2012). Helping students take control of everyday executive functions: The attention fix. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

This book presents an innovative model for strengthening and developing executive function in any student, including those with attention, memory, organization, planning, inhibition, initiative, and flexibility difficulties. It guides how to support each student’s evolving executive function and encourages those ready to develop self-advocacy and become more responsible for developing their executive function skills. The author advocates a student-centered approach in which educators first explore eight key “ingredients” with the student:

  • Relationships
  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • Self-advocacy and responsibility
  • Review and preview
  • Motivation and incentive
  • Synthesis and analysis
  • Rhythm and routine
  • Practice and repetition

She provides step-by-step explanations of how the educator and student can then explore and use these “ingredients” in different ways and combinations to address particular areas of difficulty successfully. The approach is clearly explained, and the author provides many useful examples, tried-and-tested practical tips, and strategies, suggested conversation starters, sample time management plans, and other tools that can be adapted to meet each student’s particular needs and abilities. Original and effective, the approach outlined in this book will be of interest to teachers and other professionals involved in supporting executive function in students of all ages, as well as parents and caregivers.

Book summary retrieved from here.

15. Dyslexia Advocate! How to Advocate for a Child with Dyslexia within the Public Education System

Sandman-Hurley, Kelli. Dyslexia advocate! How to advocate for a child with dyslexia within the public education system. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2016.

This book should be on the shelf of any school administrator, educator, and parent. It contains sensible and well-researched approaches for helping students with dyslexia within the public education system. Every SPED employee should be required to read this book before assessing and completing an IEP for students with reading difficulties. Read this book, and banish useless reading goals forever.

16. Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can’t, and What Can Be Done About It

Seidenberg, MarkLanguage at the speed of sight: how we read, why so many can’t, and what can be done about it. Basic Books, 2017.

This is one of the more narrative books on reading issues. Language often reads more like a good novel, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s not equally well-researched and informative. Seidenberg explores the educational world to discuss why so many teachers aren’t given the basic educational understanding to teach reading well in the United States.

17. Dyslexia Screening: Essential Concepts for Schools and Parents

Selznick, Richard. Dyslexia Screening: essential concepts for schools and parents.  Bookbaby, 2015.

If a school wants to get started with some practical interventions for students with dyslexia, then this book is a must. It’s a thin volume that outlines exactly how any school can begin screening and intervening on dyslexia. It also outlines what is included in each step of reading assessment, from screening to comprehensive testing.

18. The Shut-down Learner: Helping Your Academically Discouraged Child

Selznick, Richard. The Shut-down Learner: helping your academically discouraged child. Sentient Publications, 2008.

Selznick hits the mark with Shut-down Learner by carefully and competently outlining where a student should developmentally be with reading. Selznick emphasizes the importance of appropriate expectations when teaching reading, which either contributes to the success or hastens reading collapse. This helpful guide is easy to read and understand, which makes it useful to both educators and parents.

19. Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level

Shaywitz, Sally. Overcoming Dyslexia: a new and complete science-based program for reading problems at any level. Vintage, 2005.

Considered one of the first and perhaps best introductions to the latest fMRI research regarding dyslexia and the brain, Shaywitz’s Overcoming Dyslexia has become synonymous with understanding how reading occurs in the brain. Shaywitz distills much of the “new” science into actionable items for parents, teachers, and administrators. Go to the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity website for her latest research and writing.

20. The Reading Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Understanding How the Mind Reads

Willingham, Daniel. The Reading Mind: a cognitive approach to understanding how the mind reads. Jossey-Bass, 2017.

One of the latest reading books to enter the market, The Reading Mind benefits from its predecessors and seems to sum up the latest research with the perspective of hindsight being 20/20. Willingham fills in the gaps from other books and clarifies some misunderstandings with well-researched examples that make fine points about the need for solid reading instruction across the grades.

21. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain

Wolf, Maryanne. Proust and the Squid: the story and science of the reading brain. Harper Perennial, 2008.

Although fairly dated, Wolf’s book is a must-read for anyone interested in the science behind reading and dyslexia. Many reviewers consider this the book you “actually want to read about brain science.”

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