Helping Your Child Understand Dyslexia

There are times in every parent’s life when they need to help their child understand a difficult concept. It could be something like the reason for someone’s emotional outburst, the illness or loss of a pet, an upcoming move, or something more abstract. When a child is struggling with dyslexia or some other learning difficulty, it can be a real challenge for parents to come up with the words to help their child understand his or her situation. Finding the words to help a child understand this situation with compassion and self-acceptance can be even more difficult. This may be the reason why so many families never discuss dyslexia or other learning challenges, other than to pay lip-service to the label itself.

But without discussion, questions, and an interchange of ideas and information, how can a child with dyslexia or other learning issues ever be expected to understand themselves or embrace their learning issues in a wholesome, proactive way? They can’t. And when a child doesn’t understand the reasons for and the scope of their learning issues, they also won’t have the ability to learn to cope with their situation. Without coping skills and a solid academic approach, anxiety will be high and learning will be limited. There’s a flip side as well—if parents do talk with their child about dyslexia, ADD, etc., but do so as if these conditions are tragedies or if they talk in a way that portrays a negative future for the child, that’s what the child will believe. I knew there had to be a way to make the dyslexia conversations easier, and I’m eager to share the solution!

What if there was a book that parents could read with their child that specifically addressed what it’s like to have a learning challenge and the feelings that result from the difficulty, in a fun, relatable way? Whether your child has dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, or some other challenge to their educational progress, the book There’s a Monkey in My Backpack! can help. When you read this book with your child, they will be able to understand their learning difference, make peace with it, and even learn to see the positive aspects of their situation. By using the questions for discussion in the back of the book, you keep the conversation going, creating a safe, fun environment in which to explore the possibilities of any learning difference.

Anna, the protagonist, has a monkey in her backpack that only she can see, and he’s causing her all sorts of trouble! He distracts her, makes it hard to pay attention to her teacher, interferes with her ability to write, and even makes her so restless she can’t sit still. Anna gets in trouble all the time, and it’s all because of that pesky little monkey no one can even see! This illustrates to children the abstract idea that all people have parts of their lives that other people may not be aware of. And those unseen limitations can powerfully affect the way people act, feel about themselves, and how well they can learn and do their work.

As Anna shares her feelings and experiences, children who have similar experiences won’t feel alone. They will be comforted and even entertained by the way Anna talks about her monkey and learns to interact with him. And when Anna learns to view her monkey and herself through the lens of the positive aspects of her challenges, she makes peace with her reality and moves forward with energy and determination.

This storytelling technique has as its basis something called a hero of self-reference. In other words, the hero or protagonist of the story has feelings and experiences like the reader’s own (or the reader’s audience) and offers hope and a basis for believing that the reader will be able to succeed with certain problems because the hero of the story is also able to succeed when facing similar problems.

Third-grader Anna sits at her desk trying to take a spelling test while a mischievous monkey steals some of the letters she needs. From the book There's a Monkey in My Backpack! by Don M. Winn.

When a child has dyslexia or another learning challenge, the need for conversations about how to cope with all the facets of the situation is one that exists, intermittently, for years. As new challenges surface due to the increased workload of each school year, a child with a learning challenge requires more support, understanding, and coping skills. While the book There’s a Monkey in My Backpack! gets the conversation off to a great start for younger children, I also wanted parents to have a comprehensive resource about dyslexia that would offer a way to navigate those years and those conversations in a user-friendly, manageable way.

In October 2019, my nonfiction guidebook, Raising a Child With Dyslexia: What Every Parent Needs to Know will be available at amazon.com and other online book stores. The research, science, and conversational techniques in this book will help parents of any child be more in tune with and responsive to their child’s emotional and educational needs. In addition, there are several chapters about working with your child’s school to get testing, accommodation, and other educational needs met promptly.

For those attending the Central Texas Dyslexia Conference on October 19, 2019, who would like to preorder signed copies of either or both books, you can do so here.

There’s a Monkey in My Backpack! is available from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, and many other online retailers.

Cardboard Box Adventures Picture Books are great for shared reading and can help parents establish a strong pre-literacy foundation for their children. Check out the new CBA Catalog for a full list of award-winning picture books, chapter books, and resources for parents and educators.

Third-grader Anna follows the other kids along a symbolic outdoor path leading to the "finish" of third grade, but her monkey hangs onto her leg, making her fall father and father behind the other students. From the book There's a Monkey in My Backpack! by Don M. Winn.

Written with a gold-tipped pen! A wonderfully fun and clever way for a dyslexic child to understand why learning can be difficult.

Wishing Shelf Review (5-star rating)

This is an excellent book for helping kids understand their own challenges and what kinds of ways it could impact their lives at school, at the park, or even with their own creativity and imagination. This book is an excellent resource for every child suffering from dyslexia and their parents too!

Jason Muckley (NetGalley Reviewer)
Anna sits "down in the dumps" as her monkey companion laughs and points at her as she despairs of every doing anything right or even finishing the third grade. From the book, There's a Monkey in My Backpack! by Don M. Winn.

This is a fantastic symbolic picture book helping kids with dyslexia understand they can still overcome their problems if they learn how they can cope with it. Colourful and adorable illustrations accompany this fantastic story. A must have for any child struggling with learning.

Amanda Williams (NetGalley Reviewer)

Children all over the world have disabilities that prevent them from learning like their fellow students. These problems make children feel different and ashamed of themselves. The learning disabilities are the monkey on a child’s back.

I believe this book needs to be given to every teacher and read to any child with a learning problem. This book could help teachers understand that not all children learn the same way. It can also help a child feel better about themselves and it could get a child to talk more openly about any problems they may have.

Mimi Loves All 8 Blog Review
Anna's monkey companion takes her up into his tree house to see the big picture, helping her see that dyslexia and other learning difficulties have a positive side as well. From the picture book There's a Monkey in my Backpack! by Don M. Winn.

My 22-year-old daughter, who is a student, becoming a teacher, just finished reading There’s A Monkey In My Backpack! by Don M. Winn, and loved it. She says she can’t wait to implement it, in the classroom, this Spring. She’ll be student teaching her final semester, and she says it’ll be good for the kids she is teaching. I really can’t wait for Sarah to take it into the classroom, so the kids can hear this amazing story.

This Frugal Family Blog Review

I love the message in this book. Even though the character is in 3rd grade, this would suit for a younger audience as well. I think it helps children with learning difficulties and/or on the spectrum understand their struggles as well as inspires super discussion for kiddos to have with their parents and teachers–well done!

Reviewer Meredith Spidel of Mom of the Year

I see my child in this book and for that I am grateful. I like the analogy of a monkey hanging out with the little girl confusing her and getting in her way. I can’t speak with any authority on how it feels to have dyslexia but to me it feels like this paints an accurate picture. I also like that in the end, the monkey has it’s good points as well. I think this is a great book to share with first through third graders that are dealing with things like dyslexia and ADHD.

Reviewer Erin from My Story Time Corner

I was asked to read and review this children’s book called There’s A Monkey In My Backpack. I was so glad to do so! This particular book focuses on kids with dyslexia but I feel that it could apply to many kids with many kinds of difficulties in school.

Sirius Sunshine State of Mind Blog
Anna realizes that her often troublesome monkey companion (a.k.a. dyslexia or other learning challenges) also helps her be very creative and to think in pictures. From the book There's a Monkey in My Backpack! by Don M. Winn.