Book Review: Dyslexia: A Very Short Introduction.

Margaret J. Snowling opens her book Dyslexia: A Very Short Introduction with a chapter titled, “Does Dyslexia Exist?” This powerful question captures the essence of the dyslexia debate and serves as a reminder that dyslexia is a complex and controversial topic.

And yes, dyslexia does exist.

Dyslexia is defined as “a problem with learning which primarily affects the development of reading accuracy and fluency and spelling skills.” However, Snowling reminds us that without a thorough understanding of reading development, evidence-based teaching practices/interventions, and knowledge of risk factors for poor reading, dyslexia can be oversimplified, overlooked, or misunderstood. This short introduction examines all of these elements in an efficient and concise manner and is a proficient book for a novice to get acquainted with dyslexia or for an intermediate/expert to perfect their knowledge base.

In this very short introduction Snowling efficiently covers the essentials: reading development, the cognitive causes of dyslexia, environment, genes, the dyslexic brain, what works for dyslexia and caveats, comorbidities, and compensation. As a bonafide expert on the subject, Snowling is able to present all of this information in a concise manner that lays out the foundational elements of reading and the potential factors that may be the source of a dyslexia diagnosis. To further illustrate this point, Snowling introduces us to three different dyselxic individuals to show how dyslexia affects different individuals at different stages of their reading development. She also explains that for these individuals, dyslexia is not just a diagnosis (essential for receiving support services), but the key to accepting and understanding their struggles and developing a “resilience in a literate world” (p. 130). In my opinion, the most compelling part of the book is the last chapter titled “What Works for Dyslexia?” Snowling states several KEY points:

  • There is no “quick fix” or cure for dyslexia; dyslexia is a lifelong condition.
  • There are ways of helping to improve reading and spelling as well as ways to get around some of the problems that come with dyslexia.
  • The first step in intervention is to identify difficulties and monitor progress through the early stages of reading instruction and to intervene as soon as possible. There is no need to wait for a diagnosis.

Furthermore, as the title suggests, the chapters lays out what works for dyslexia and (almost as important) what does NOT work for dyslexia. 

Dyslexia: A Very Short Introduction dives right into a complex topic. Thus, this is probably not the best choice for an easy-breezy, educational beach read. (Does such a thing even exist?!) BUT if you are seriously looking into learning more about dyslexia and want to start with the best in the “biz,” then this is for you. This book is short, but it may take you some time to read and comprehend, especially if you take the time to check out Snowling’s extensive references for fun or further clarification. As a full-on academic nerd, I LOVED this book and would recommend it to anyone who wants to gain expertise in this topic. In sum, a short but comprehensive look into a complex topic.

Snowling, M. (2019). Dyslexia: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

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