My niece Eliana is a hero of mine.
She was born very early, a tiny scrap of a baby who fought against all the odds to survive and thrive. She grew up into someone kind and caring, cheerful and fun. She’s 18 now, living in Israel, studying and volunteering in a children’s home. I miss her a lot.
But being born so early affected her in a few ways, particularly her eyesight. She had to have operations to help her eyes focus better. That is possibly what made her dyslexic.
I asked her to describe what being dyslexic was like for her. She said: “It still affects me in everyday things that I don't always see. Like reading, writing and things like that...
“People don’t really see dyslexia as a big thing or a issue that can put people at a disadvantage. This can make people feel like they are really alone when they struggle, when work becomes too much.
“Dyslexia is also used as a joke a lot with people saying 'I'm dyslexic,' people joke and everyone laughs it off but to some people, who it really affects, it hurts because things that are simple for others aren't simple for them.
“I find reading still very hard.. nowadays I have to do reading aloud and it's horrific. I can process the words in my head correctly but I say them wrong or it takes me a while from seeing what’s on the page and my brain processing it to me being able to say it.... I found that tracking also is a really big issue getting from one line to the next .”
So, knowing how much Eliana struggled (and yet made the huge effort to read my books and those written by her other aunt, the late, much loved Melissa Nathan), I always envied authors who were asked to write for dyslexia specialists Barrington Stoke. I knew how much work Barrington Stoke put into making their books readable - from the colour of the paper to the font, from the vocabulary choices to the sentence structure.
I also knew that they picked authors who were deemed popular, so that dyslexic readers would be reading the same writers as their friends. So they wouldn’t feel the loneliness that Eliana describes.
When Barrington Stoke asked me to write a book, I jumped at the chance. And once I had devised the story of compulsive liar River, his environmental activist mum and her smooth and charming boyfriend, Jason, I absolutely loved writing it.
My hope is that readers - dyslexic and otherwise – will enjoy reading it. And for some it will make reading feel like something that they can do, giving them confidence and helping them feel less alone.
The Liar’s Handbook is dedicated to Eliana. But it’s written for everyone who’s ever felt the way she feels about reading and writing.
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Keren David · Keren David
I've worked as a journalist since I was 18 when I got a job as a messenger girl. I’ve been a reporter, a political correspondent, a news editor, a comment editor, feature writer and in Amsterdam I was editor in chief for a photographic agency. I worked for The Independent for many years, and have also written for many other national newspapers and magazines. I'm now Features Editor at the Jewish Chronicle. I grew up in Welwyn Garden City and have lived in London, Glasgow and Amsterdam. In 2007 my family moved back to London after eight years in the Netherlands and I decided to try to write a book. I signed up for a course in Writing for Children at City University which was tutored by Amanda Swift. I got the idea of writing a book about a boy in witness protection, and roughed out a story during a plot-planning exercise in class. That story became my first book When I Was Joe, and eventually a trilogy (with Almost True and Another Life.) I’m adapting one book,Lia’s Guide to Winning the Lottery into a musical. My next book will be Stranger, in January 2018.