Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Brothers Plad

Something about this link on Facebook caught my eye. Maybe it was the crisp logo, maybe it was the "D" word in the accompanying text: "Dyslexia." All I know is, I clicked on the ad, which is something I never do, and that led me down a very pleasant trail which I'm happy to share with you.

As I posted about the book, several friends commented about the spelling in the title, that is, "Plad," instead of "Plaid." We couldn't figure out why a book written especially for those who tangle with words would contain a misspell on the cover.

 So you know me. I live for the word, "Why."

 I emailed the author, Sean Plasse, the following message: Hello. I was intrigued by your ad on Facebook and shared it with friends. We have a collective question: Why "plad" instead of "plaid?

And then came this great response, which I will now share with you with the author's permission:

Hi Linda,

Thank you for the email.  We love to get questions from around the country.  We appreciate you sharing our website with your friends.

I am dyslexic.  80% of dyslexics struggle with "phonemes", which are the sounds that letters make.  For example, the word "cart", is one syllable, and four letters, but it is amazingly three phonemes: K - RRR - T.  Three sounds.  The human brain is remarkable, in that normal readers can simply glance at a one syllable, four letter word, cart, and automatically "hear" the three sounds in their head: K-R-T.  It is really amazing that people can decode words like this, and they use the left, left-back, and way-back of the brain to do it.  Dyslexics never achieve this automatic skill.  Brain imaging shows that a dyslexic uses the left, left-back, and right-front of their brains.  Imagine trying to listen to a book on compact disc, say "Huckleberry Fin", but somebody has scratched the CD surface, and it keeps sticking, skipping, and sounding terrible.  That's what it is like for a dyslexic when they try to read and sound out words.  Thus, the struggle with sounds, leads to a struggle with words, sentences, paragraphs, and of course the story overall.  

The good news is that dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence.  There are many successful dyslexics, like Charles Schwab, Richard Branson, and others.  I was diagnosed later in life, after robust testing at the Stern Center for Language and Learning,  Apparently my ability to decode words is in the 14th percentile, but my IQ is in the 99th percentile!  It was a great day for this dyslexic carpenter.  I received a few years of reading instruction at the Stern Center, and went on to serve 6 years on the board of directors, making speeches for the Governor of Vermont, NPR, local news, and most importantly, raising financial donations to help youth literacy.  It was a great time.  The one thing I heard over and over again, was that teachers and parents were struggling with dyslexic boys, especially in rural areas.  

My friend was a teacher in Vermont, and one day she called me.  She had a dyslexic boy as a student, and who she couldn't find books for him.  I asked her what he liked to do.  She said, "Fish, hunt, camp."  I told her I loved those activities too, and to get books on those topics.  She said there weren't any.  I was amazed/horrified!  I had been writing for 18 years, but had never attempted a children's story.  I started writing The Brothers Plaid that day, but t just didn't look right.  My dyslexic brain skipped each time I read my own title, Plaid.  I changed it to The Brothers Plad, and it felt right.  It made phonetic sense to me, and I wanted dyslexic kids to feel invited by the title, not intimidated.  So, my friend read the story out loud to the class one day, and they loved it.  The dyslexic boy took it home that night, and my friend went to his trailer, and watched him read it out loud to his Dad and stepmother.  It meant the world to me.  So, that year I wrote eight short stories of The Brothers Plad, and the class had a huge plad party at the end of the year...and everybody wore plad and ate watermelon.  I spent the next three years writing the novel, with my brother Matt as business partner and editor.  The novel is based on a true fishing story from when we were kids.  The original Brothers Plad.

The whole book was designed from the beginning with dyslexics in mind.  The font is easy to read.  Paragraphs are short, with ample spacing.  There are visual icons which follow the story, and summarize at the end of chapters.  There are words purposefully misspelled in each chapter.  One of the brothers, Tommy, is dyslexic, and struggles to read throughout the book.  And of course, there is plenty of action, worms, dirt, blood, sweat and fishing.  

I hope that this is a decent explanation of the spelling!  Here are a few more links for fun:

1.  Book Tour - This is a facebook link which gives you a visual tour of the book.  You can see the graphic icons which summarize the story for dyslexics.  If you start on the image in the top left, and simply scroll through, it is a good tour.  There are explanations written below each image.

2.  NPR Interview - Here is a link to an NPR interview I did a few years ago, which explains some of my coping mechanisms for dyslexia.

3.  Television Show - Here is a link to a television show, when I was struggling as a dyslexic author to write a book.  It was much more difficult than I ever expected, but with my brother's help, we got it done.  Now we're shipping around the world!

Thank you again for your email.  It is great to hear from Muncie!  Let me know if you have more questions.  I love promoting literacy for dyslexics.  Give our best to your friends.  

Sean  Plasse

One of the things my new son-in-law said about this link was," I wish that was the first book I ever read. Maybe I would have liked reading." 

If this book tweaks your interest, I encourage you to check out the links and consider a purchase.

I believe it is a new day for those who learn differently from the norm. We have to keep pushing forward.

Thank you, Sean Plasse, for taking on this challenge and for caring about other people. Best of luck to you in whatever endeavor you put your heart, mind and hands to.


Lisa Laree said...

This is a lovely story. Thanks for posting it!!

O Mom said...

Thanks for sharing. It makes me want to cry when I hear how others have struggled and are now helping. My middle daughter has dyslexia, only by my research and opinion. She is very active and creative and smart, but struggles with spelling and reading correctly, although she does love to read, thankfully. I am always so amazed when I realize there are others out there that would totally get her!!! thanks again.

Patrice and Higgins said...

Thanks Linda for posting this yet again! I just ordered a copy for my son. He has dyslexia and it is a constant battle for him. Just last night my husband was having him read something out loud and it was so hard for him and us. Our heart breaks as he struggles. Joey loves to read, but struggles greatly. Sometimes he gets so frustrated that he will put the book down and quit reading it. Then I will step in and read it to him. Breaks my heart! I can't wait to get the book in the mail and will update you on how it goes when Joey starts to read it!

2nd Cup of Coffee said...

I can't wait to hear what you guys think!

Marsha said...

My son had dyslexia and I constantly battled teachers and the schools here to get him help until he asked me to stop when he entered Jr. High. He barely scraped though from that point forward until he managed to graduate from high school with his class. I wish The Brothers Plad had been available to him when he was struggling with reading as a young boy. The dyslexia was not nearly as devastating as the self-doubt the inability to read and understand it created.

On a side note, he was far more successful when he eventually went to college than he was in El-Hi. I always felt it took him getting out in the real world to realize how smart he was and overcoming the huge lack of confidence he felt as a result of dyslexia.

Although he didn't finish, (he got a job making more money than he would with a degree) he made the dean's list on two occasions during the two plus years that he went. It did him a world of good to know he was not stupid.

I knew he wasn't, but nothing I said convinced that little boy who just felt dumb no matter what I said. I still feel disappointed that there was no real help for him when he was younger.

Becky said...

That sounds like a great book for my son to read! He doesn't have dyslexia but what boy doesn't like action, worms, dirt, blood, sweat and fishing :D Thanks for the write up and the link.

Jenny wren's nest said...

dyslexics untied!

I saw a t shirt with this saying on it, it decribes my life with words.
every time I write on the computer I burn up the spell checker.
thanks for this info, My son and I will enjoy checking out the books.

Roxanne said...

Sounds like one I will be purchasing for my dyslexia class. . .one boy in particular.

Carmen said...

Ha! Just read this out to my husband. My husband is more intelligent than most people I have met (not just because he is my husband, he remembers everything word for word, plus he knows and understands details about so many things and has an ability to relay them in layman's terms). However, he thought he wasn't very smart. When he realized he was dyslexic, the sky was the limit, and now there's no stopping him!

LynnMarie said...

I have dyslexia and I never noticed the spelling was incorrect until you pointed it out to me. I read it just fine. I so wish that books were written that way when I was growing up. I may have enjoyed reading a lot more. I love how he explains the problem as well, I struggle to explain what I see and what my mind reads.

DebC said...

Books with "action, worms, dirt, blood, sweat and fishing"
for kids struggling with reading ...
did not exist 15 years ago when I was desperately searching.
I'm so glad something now exists which will make reading more doable for those with reading battles.
Thanks for the info about this book series.