Learning Disabilities Awareness Month is a time to give recognition to folks with LD and to perhaps learn a bit more about these disabilities. â€œLearning disabilitiesâ€ is a phrase that can encompass many different things: dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, and dysgraphia. These disabilities give people trouble with reading, writing, maths, and motor skills. Learning disabilities are lifelong issues, they cannot be cured or fixed. But teachers and parents and therapists can work with folks who have LDs to help them develop skills and strategies for dealing with their difficulties. ADHD, auditory processing disorder, visual processing disorder, and autism spectrum disorders can present folks with similar types of challenges, but are not learning disabilities themselves. According to the National Institutes of Health 15% of the US population have some type of learning disorder. So it is little wonder that there are many YA literature characters who have some sort of LD. Here are five titles to explore.
Dying to Know You – Aidan Chambers (Chambers is a Printz winner)
Karl is head over heels in love with Fiorella. She has asked him to write her a series of letters, answering deep questions about love. Karl is dyslexic and is terrified that he will fail to impress her and thus will lose her. He seeks out Fiorella’s favorite author and convinces him to act as a sort of Cyrano de Bergerac, writing down Karl’s spoken thoughts. The two men, though far apart in age, develop a friendship that unexpectedly brings them both much joy.
Carter Finally Gets It – Brent Crawford
Will Carter is just starting high school. He’s a popular guy, has friends, plays sports, but he is insecure and very concerned. He worries about how hard classes will be, he worries about making the team, he worries that his stutter and his LD will keep him from succeeding in many ways, but especially with girls. Crawford has written a realistical teen guy, but leavened the story heavily with humor and good cheer. Carter’s a good guy (if slightly raunchy-minded) and as the title says, he finally figures out how to survive high school.
Graffiti Moon – Cath Crowley
It is the last night of year 12 (senior year in Australian schools) and Lucy just wants to find Shadow, the mysterious graffiti artist whose work moves her. Ed, a former classmate who also went on one disastrous date with Lucy, swears he knows how to find Shadow, and so Lucy reluctantly joins him for an all-night jaunt. There is more to Ed than meets the eye. he may have dropped out of school while struggling with his LD, but if Lucy only opens her eyes, she may find an artist within Ed.
Okay for Now – Gary D. Schmidt (Schmidt is a Printz Honor recipient)
Doug’s father loses his job and moves the family to a new town just in time for Doug to begin eighth grade. No one expects much from Doug, not his teachers, not his new neighbors, not his schoolmates. In their eyes he’s just a skinny thug with learning disabilities. But despite people’s low opinions, despite his abusive father, despite his depressed Vietnam Veteran brother, Doug somehow remains optimistic. He makes two friends in town, a classmate and a librarian who make things okay, for now.
After Ever After – Jordan Sonnenblick (Best Fiction for Young Adults 2011)
Jeffrey is a cancer survivor, but the treatments that sent the cancer into remission have given him some learning disabilities and he has a terrible time concentrating. As if that wasn’t hard enough, Jeff is now in eighth grade, there are cute girls to flirt with, his best friend and fellow cancer survivor Tad has ended up in a wheelchair, and Jeff’s big brother, the person he always looks up to, has â€œrun awayâ€ to Africa to find himself. Somehow, Jeff will have to survive eighth grade, and this very funny book show how he does that.
~ Geri Diorio, currently reading The Forest Unseen by David George Haskell
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