Snowling, Margaret J. Dyslexia: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press, 2019. xx, 147. ISBN 978-0-19-881830-4. £8.99.
Very short introductions of Oxford University Press as a rule are very informative. This little book is no exception to this rule. As I was lately working with researchers of digital reading, I thought that I have learned some things about our reading brain in addition to what I already knew of acquisition of literacy, reading habits and environments. Well, maybe I knew something already, but Margaret Snowling has definitely expanded my understanding of many things.
First, I have realised that dyslexia is actually a very varied phenomena. In fact, there is no one dyslexia as such, but many different reading disorders. That is one of the reasons why 'dyslexia defies definition' (p. 9). Any of these disorders can negatively impact a person and create numerous problems, such as low self-esteem that can cause deep depression; low learning achievements resulting in limited employment choices or social isolation. Though people find the ways to circumvent their impairment, but it is never an easy situation.
In the second chapter, the author provides a good overview of the pre-requisits for reading and the process of becoming a more or less fluent reader. She connects this process to the problems of people with reading impairment. These are multiple and can be connected to phonology or semantics, semiology or number of languages people have to learn. I have learned that spelling is a neglected area of reading research, which was quite surprising. So, actually dyslexia can be manifesting as problems in reading and writing or just in one of those.
I liked best the chapters on cognitive causes of dyslexia (3) as well as the influence of genetic and epigenetic environments. Different theories of dyslexia are not so much competing with each other, but increase knowledge about the reading brain and literacy acquisition process. The same can be said about the usage of neuroimaging as a tool for investigating the causes of dyslexia. I am not sure if it can be applied to overcoming reading impairments, but it really reveals very interesting explanations about brain functioning.
The chapter 6 presents the conditions of and approaches to the dyslexia remediation. As one would expect, there are as many of those as the theories about dyslexia and reading. But the chapter also introduces empirical findings about the results of different approaches, helping a reader to understand what works and what does not work in helping people to acquire literacy and become readers despite of any impairment.
The final chapter 7 explains the necessity of acknowledging the existence of dyslexia, its diagnosis at an early stage in life, and the necessity to expand research on dyslexia in different directions. It is not yet clear how the differences in brain structures affect dyslexia or 'differences in learning shape the brain itself' (p. 129).
I would suggest that this small and very accessible book can help students, teachers, parents, and reading researchers. Thus, the audience for it is wide and diverse. Reading disorders become more and more visible in our schools and society. The more understanding of this condition exists among us, the less stigma and disscomfort children, adults and even seniors will experience in learning to read.
University of Borås
How to cite this review
Maceviciute, E. (2020). Review of: Snowling, Margaret J. Dyslexia: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press, 2019. Information Research, 25(3), review no. Rxxx [Retrieved from http://www.informationr.net/ir/reviews/revsxxx.html]
Information Research is published four times a year by the University of Borås, Allégatan 1, 501 90 Borås, Sweden.