Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Wild Letters in a Wild Book

The history of dyslexia is as diverse and unique as each dyslexic themselves. The evolution of the condition from the use of the term "word blindness" to the term dyslexia feels as though it could be eons in the making, but it hasn't been as long as you'd think. In Ms. Margarita Engle's The Wild Book, a young girl is diagnosed with word blindness, but her strong, Cuban family doesn't believe in giving up.

When the doctor tells Fefa's mother she has word blindness, her mother doesn't listen to the diagnosis of never being able to read or write. Instead she takes Fefa home and gives her the Wild Book, a blank book for Fefa to discover words all on her own. At first the words feel overwhelming and terrifying, but Fefa also has a book of poetry. Her mother's love of poetry seems like an impossibility to Fefa, especially when her brothers and sisters make fun of her for not being able to read, but the words won't be so scary if only Fefa had a chance to get to know them. Outside her Wild Book, the land of Cuba is in disarray. War, danger, hurricanes, caimans, and even bad men who kidnap children for ransom surround them. But Fefa's family doesn't give up so easily. They don't buckle under the pressure of giant reptiles, kidnappers, or word blindness. They carry on.

This was a beautiful little book written in free verse. It is very short, the verse is very accessible, and the book is actually written in a manner that would not overwhelm a dyslexic student, with plenty of white space and a large font. In fact, I think this would be a great book to be read by a teacher with their whole class because not only do the words sing a beautiful melody if spoken aloud, but the discussion about learning styles is one all children should have with an adult. If children can be open about their different learning styles from a young age, perhaps the shame and guilt they feel would never stain their childhoods. I think this book might be a little too "poetic" or subtle for a young student to read by themselves, but this is perfect for a classroom setting or for a child to read with their parents. Fefa is a strong girl who shares the same self-doubt as any dyslexic student does, so she would be someone a dyslexic child could relate to with ease. I also love the backdrop of Cuba that gives you a little history thrown in with the story of this courageous girl who wouldn't give up. This is a beautiful story, so pick up a copy and read it to your students! 

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