Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Dyslexia Blog - My journey through #dyslexia in books

For a blogger, I guessI am extraordinarily badly read and badly educated from a literary point of view. I had no interest in books as a child. This was a direct result of the fact I am dyslexic. If you've read my dyslexia blogs (if you haven't there is a short summary at the bottom) before you'll know that I had trouble reading until I was around 12 years old. Like many moderately dyslexic people, I developed a coping strategy and got my head around the matter. I am a slow reader and unless I have a deep interest in a subject, I find it very difficult to concentrate whilst reading books. I found that when I was 12, I could read them. I had never read a childrens book, but my sister gave me a copy of 1984 by George Orwell and told me it was the best book ever written. She gave me a short description. I found it fascinating and ploughed through it. I loved the idea of dystopian world and I realised that there was something there for me in books after all. I thought I'd raid my bookshelf and explain how each of these books, all of which are precious gems in my life, have played an important role in my literary journey.

Lets start with a book that isn't a book!

Jeff Hawke, pilot of the future was a comic strip in the Daily Express. It fascinated me. Jeff Hawke was a rocket pilot,  a hero. Hawke was originally conceived as a sort of James Bond in space, but morphed into a diplomat and advocate of reason and logic. Hawke would see through the often grotesque appearance of strange aliens, to forge friendships and learn. I was obsessed with space, so I would be fascinated. My mum used this as a tool to get me reading. She'd help me with words and realised that I loved comics, so that was my one extravigance.

Next up are two books about a passion of mine. Manchester City FC and music.

The Manchester City football book no 2 was a vain attempt by my mum to try and engage me in reading, as I was a fanatical City fan as a child. She thought that this would engage me, but sadly it didn't. But I loved the book. I mostly loved the pictures and the lists of appearances, etc. I would start to read a chapter and just get bored or distracted. But it was a prize possession. At present City are mired in scandal over financial fair play. I hear Arsenal fans claimin City 'came from nowhere' and have 'no history'. Sadly this is a product of the lack of football education of many of them. When this book was made in 1970, City were the best team in the country and had won four trophies in three years, including the EUFA cup winners cup. Sadly mismanagement saw a long, lean period, but this book is a treasure from a better, more innocent era, when the words 'Fair play' in football had a different meaning. It is revealing that the obsession with stats was just starting in 1970. Page 57 states "A University professor and his student boffins have revealed hard and fast statistics to prove that Colin Bell is twice the player than was legendary Ferenc Puskas" Whilst I now find that interesting, as a dyslexic eight year old it might as well have been written in heiroglyphics.

Next up is Pete Frames Rock Family Trees. A music obsessive this is golddust. Learning little snippets such as that Jimmy Warner was the only member of 1960's psychedelic San Francisco rock band Frumious Bandersnatchers not to play in the Steve Miller band is essential! What I loved about this book was it is completely non linear.

You can look at it for 30 seconds or an hour and you will get something out of it. I think this is a perfect format for engaging a Dyslexic brain. I was given the book by Dav, the former False Dots drummer, as a present when he moved back to Shrewesbury. I will eternally be grateful for the gift.

Next up we have two very different books. A collection of poetry by John Cooper Clarke and a Brian Clough biography.

John Cooper Clarke is a huge influence on me. The first and best known of the punk poets. I had always thought of poets as purveyors of meaningless slushy gobbledygook. I now know how wrong I was and this is as a direct result of seeing John Cooper Clarke. He taught me the power of words.

I doubt I'd have every written any poetry myself without John Cooper Clarke's influence. Although I was writing lyrics before I heard JCC, his influence was liberating and I realised just what a powerful tool words are. I think he should be a key part of the English syllabus. I am sure his work would be an inspiration to many dyslexics, who often struggle with the very concept of words. Like all of his books, this is entertaining and can be enjoyed in short chunks, something I beleive is a key element in engaging dyslexics with reading.

As for Brian Clough. He was an icon of 1970's/80's British football. If you were fascinated by football, you were fascinated by Clough. The book is pretty unremarkable, but it was the first autobiography I read. I realised that learning about the lives of interesting people can be fascinating. As with many books, I struggle with the sections that don't interest me, but it was worth the effort.

Next up, two great cartoon figures.

First up, we have Judge Dredd. I am a massive fan of 2000AD and espcially Dredd. I am not so much a fan of some of his more epic stories (although some are brilliant, such as the cursed earth chronicles), I can stand the more ridiculous supernatural foe's such as Judge Death. I love the short stories of mundane human stupidity best. There are many pearls of wisdom. As the comic strip has pictures, it is easy for my dyslexic brain to follow it in a linear pattern and make sense of it.

As for Steve Bell, as with Jeff Hawke, I've always loved newspaper comic strips. As regular readers might have noticed, I am also fascinated by politics. Steve Bell encapsulates both and is far better at it than anyone else this side of the pond. Only Doonesbury can be considered anywhere near him. This collection is classic.

This is a great example of his work for the uninitited

The next two books are very different, but are probably the two most standard books.

First up is the autobiography of the acerbic lead singer of PIL and The Sex Pistols, John Lydon. For all of us 1977 punks, Lydon is a mythical figure. However, whilst I bought the book to learn about the music, the chapters on growing up as part of a family of Irish transient workers in North London was far more fascinating. John Lydon was a teacher before he became the lead singer of the Sex Pistols. I suspect if he'd taught me English, I may have engaged with the subject.

The next book is about Joseph Stalin. As my wife was studying Russian when I met her, I developed a fascination with the country. Of all it's leaders and periods, the Stalin era was the one which has most fascinated me. Stalin is a figure worthy of study. His reign of the USSR was a period of paranoic terror, but also a period when the country became a Superpower. This book was published in 2004. Simon Sebag Montefiore is a fantastic author who makes a subject that is at times rather dry extremely engaging. It made me realise that for those of us who sometimes struggle with reading, if a book is well written it is far easier to read and engage with. You need an interest in the subject, but many history books are often simply attempts by the author to show how clever the author is, with scant regards for the reader. Personally, I believe that there should be a dyslexic syllabus, where books that are hard to read on subject such as history are banned.

And we finish our literary tour with a book by one of our own. Ex Orange Hill boy done good Robert Elms. Robert talks a bit like me, loves football, likes the music I like and he has written a book almost unique in documenting the London I know.

If you love London, you will like Roberts book. It is the story of ordinary London. As with just about every other book I've mentioned, it is easy to read and not written by someone trying to show you how clever they are.

For me a good book is something that lives with you after you have finished it. All of these books have done that

Let me give you a bit of Background so you know who I am and what I do. I was born in 1962. I didn't start talking until I was 4 years old (at all, not a single word). My parents thought I was deaf. My reading age at eleven was 5. When I was fifteen I started a rock and roll band called the False Dots, the band is still going strong. When I was 16 I started a business called Mill Hill Music Complex (although then it was simply called the studio), a rehearsal studio, as we had nowhere to rehearse. The business has grown into a very successful enterprise, one of Londons biggest and most well respected independent studios. We now have 17 studios and a music shop and also have a photography/video studio and a dance studio. I also have done IT work, mostly on a freelance basis since 1983. In 2012 I also moved into film production, producing two highly acclaimed documentary films, both of which had screenings at the House of Commons. When I was 31, I had a dyslexia test. To my surprise I was told I was moderately dyslexic. This made me interested in the subject. To my amazement, what I have learned over the years is that my lack of educational aptitude, my feelings of anger and injustice and the core of my personality have been formed by the fact I cannot read words in a linear fashion. In 2013, I have set one of my objectives to use this blog to let dyslexics know they are not alone, to suggest that people who think they may be dyslexic to get an assessment and toget people who have dyslexic children or siblings to understand the issues that they face.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this very enjoyable read. The observations and insights are very interesting. I will also be taking up many of the book recommendations. Great post :-)