THE third and fourth instalments of a local author’s dyslexia-friendly children’s books will be launched in Athy library today (Tuesday 5 November). Nature’s Marvellous Adventures and Nature’s Incredible Adventures by Shane Casey will be unveiled at an event between 6.30-7.30pm that will feature book signings and light refreshments.
The books are aimed at ages six and up with each containing three individual stories about Irish wildlife and fact files on the main characters. Book three features tales about a seal learning to fish, an adventurous salmon, and a self-conscious curlew. The fourth instalment focuses on a small fox called Fintan, a song thrush who can’t sing, and Larry the ladybird who finds himself on a quest for a dragon.
Originally from the Burren in Co Clare but now based in Athy, Shane was immersed in nature from an early age and has always used it as an inspiration for writing. Married to Shirley, the former biodiversity officer’s books are very much a family project and his wife acts as both editor and designer, while becoming a parent to son William has given Shane a new perspective on nature and writing.
“When you’re a young child, you see the world from a different perspective,” he said. “You’re closer to the ground and you’re seeing things for the first [time]. Even the most ordinary things we take for granted as adults can be extraordinary in the eyes of a child, and it’s important to try to capture that sense of wonder when you write.”
Shane’s book series is aimed at making reading more accessible. He explained that there has been a significant increase in the awareness and understanding in recent years of the challenges faced by children with dyslexia, alongside an increase in resources for parents and teachers. However, resources for the children themselves are still limited, something Shane is trying to address through his series, which already features Nature’s Secret Adventures and Nature’s Hidden Adventures.
As well as introducing children to the wildlife on their own doorstep, the design and layout of the books make them dyslexia-friendly and techniques like using a special font (OpenDyslexic) and swapping black text on a white background for dark blue text on cream are used. While they might not work in every case, Shane has said that they have got a very positive response from parents, teachers and children with dyslexia.
“They’re only little changes, but the make a huge difference,” he said. “We use a combination of special font, colour schemes, and layout to make it easier for children with dyslexia to read. Little things, like avoiding a double space after a full stop, prevents white rivers on the page. Or left aligning the text instead of justifying it makes it easier to see where the sentence ends and is less daunting for a young reader than a block of text.”
Shane added that the stories themselves are also important and that many of the books used by children with dyslexia can be quite juvenile – having age-appropriate stories is key to encouraging children to read more.
“The feedback we’ve had from parents, teachers, and particularly the children themselves has been overwhelming,” he said. “For some 11 and 12-year-olds, these were the first books they had managed to read in full on their own, and it had given them the confidence to try other books.
“But the response that caught us most by surprise was from parents who had dyslexia themselves and were worried about reading to their children. It’s very humbling to know that our books are not just helping children, they’re helping families.
“Both reading and nature should be accessible to every child, and if it takes just a few small changes to achieve this, then every publisher should be doing it.”
Shane’s latest books are available online at www.shanecaseybooks.ie.