Tag Archives: reading

The Sound of Reading: Austin Teen Creates Film for National Dyslexia Awareness Month

The visually impaired and dyslexic face many obstacles in life. The ability to acquire knowledge through the printed word, a skill that accomplished readers take for granted, stands out as a constant challenge.

Fortunately, the staff and volunteers of Learning Ally provide audio versions of textbooks and other printed materials to those with learning differences, giving them the opportunity to learn and be successful.

The Sound of Reading chronicles the educational challenges faced by the visually impaired and dyslexic and their journey to success as they discover and use the audiobooks provided by the Learning Ally (formerly known as Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic).

National Dyslexia Awareness Month

In celebration of National Dyslexia Awareness Month, October 2013, I want to share this movie with you. I filmed this movie earlier this year.

You face many challenges in life if you have dyslexia, like me, but there are many resources that can help you learn and be successful with the strengths that you have.

Featured blog posts about dyslexia

Learning Ally resources

Dyslexia resources around central Texas

My thanks to the wonderful students, parents, and Learning Ally staff and members who volunteered to be part of my film. Your time and help means a lot to me, and I hope The Sound of Reading will help show the challenges that dyslexic students face and how they can achieve success with audiobooks from Learning Ally.

Your friend,

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Filed under assistive technology, Dyslexia, Dyslexic, Learning Ally, learning disabilities, National Dyslexia Awareness Month, Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, The Sound of Reading

Bow Wow Reading Dogs – Volunteering at Austin Dog Alliance

Working with a Bow Wow Reading Dog

Working with a Bow Wow Reading Dog in training

As I have shared with you on my About Page, I love dogs! And something I really enjoy doing is volunteering at Austin Dog Alliance. This is a great organization that offers training for dogs, including programs for dogs to become pet therapy dogs.

Austin Dog Alliance has a wonderful program called Special Dogs for Special Needs, where pet therapy dogs are trained to go on to become companions to special needs children.

Bow Wow Reading Dogs

This Bow Wow Reading Dog decided he wanted to try and sit in my lap!

This Bow Wow Reading Dog in training decided he wanted to try and sit in my lap!

The pet therapy program at Austin Dog Alliance that is nearest and dearest to my heart is called “Bow Wow Reading Dogs“. These are pet therapy dogs who are specially trained to go into schools and libraries to work with children who struggle to learn how to read.

You see, dogs love to be read to. They are also very loving and patient and don’t mind if you read slow or stumble on your words. They’re just happy to be with you and hear your voice. This can be incredibly comforting to the kid who struggles with reading. Trust me, as someone who struggles with dyslexia, I know how comforting a dog can be as a reading companion!

Bow Wow Reading Dog: Max

Max and Me at Austin Dog Alliance

Max and Me at Austin Dog Alliance

I’d like to introduce you to Max. Max is a Bow Wow Reading Dog and my friend. I first met Max when I attended K-9 Kids camp at Austin Dog Alliance, then I went on to work with Max to help train him to become used to being around kids for the Bow Wow Reading Dogs program. But Max was easy to work with because I think he was born being used to spending time with kids. He’s just a beautiful all around great dog!

My dog: Obi-Wan

Obi-Wan and Me

Obi-Wan and Me

I’d also like to introduce you to my dog, Obi-Wan. She’s not an official Bow Wow Reading Dog, but ever since she joined our family five years ago, she’s been my reading companion.

You may be wondering why Obi isn’t in the Bow Wow Reading Dogs program. Well, when Obi was a puppy she was found on the street and brought to a rescue group who put her up for adoption. She was just 11 weeks old and sick but I couldn’t resist adopting her, especially since our beloved Po, a cute Boston Terrier, had died and our family needed to fill the hole in our hearts. I have great parents who agreed. As my Mom always says, “Every boy needs a dog and a Mother who will let him have one.”

It turned out that Obi had parvovirus and was very sick. She had to take a lot of medicine and we had to keep her quarantined in our home for about 6 months until she recovered and could eventually receive her canine vaccines. She did recover and is a happy and healthy dog today.  Spoiled too! 🙂

Obi-Wan...Best Dog Ever!

Obi-Wan…Best Dog Ever!

But Obi can get a little nervous in loud rambunctious environments like a school, and her attention span is a bit short, not making her a great candidate for the Bow Wow Reading Dogs “official” program. But she is certainly in our “unofficial” reading program!

Tips for dyslexics: Practice reading to your dog

Reading to your dog is a great way for dyslexics to practice reading!

In this video, I’m reading parts of The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein to Obi, and you’ll notice that she wanders off from time to time. 😉 But I don’t mind in the least because she is “The Best Dog Ever!”

Learn more about Austin Dog Alliance

Austin Dog Alliance is an amazing organization and they are in the process of building a new expanded facility to train even more dogs in their Special Dogs for Special Needs program and related therapy dog programs. To learn more, to volunteer, or to donate to this worthwhile cause if you wish, be sure to check out their site by clicking on their logo below:


Your friend,


Filed under Austin Dog Alliance, Books, Bow Wow Reading Dogs, Dyslexia, Dyslexic, K-9 Kids, Parvovirus, Pet therapy, Reading, Reading therapy, Rescued dog, Shel Siverstein, Special Dogs for Special Needs, The Giving Tree

How Percy Jackson Made Dyslexia Cool

To celebrate the release of The Mark of Athena, Rick Riordan’s latest book in his Heroes of Olympus series, I created this short video to give you a fun summary of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and the first books in his latest series.

I’m looking forward to listening to the audio version, and if you’re dyslexic, as part of my video, I also talk about how you can enjoy these books too, whether your mom reads them to you or whether Learning Ally reads them to you. 🙂 You can also listen to the audio CDs from your public library.

Percy Jackson is a dyslexic who has extraordinary powers, and in addition to being a demigod, he’s a really nice guy. He made me feel better about myself, because he’s a dyslexic who is also a hero!

One of the greatest Percy Jackson moments for me was when I told a friend recently that “I have dyslexia”, and she said, “Oh, like Percy Jackson!” Thanks to Percy Jackson and Rick Riordian, dyslexia became something really cool. Instead of the guy who had problems reading, you were a demigod. 🙂

Mark of Athena Book release party at BookPeople

Young Commander Ben and Mr. Rick Riordan at The Red Pyramid book signing at BookPeople

If you’re in Austin, Texas, be sure to stop by BookPeople on October 8, to be part of the parking lot celebration of Rick Riordan’s latest book, The Mark of Athena. You can enjoy the fun games and activities and pick up a signed copy of the book.

I’ve been to past book releases at Book People, and they’re a lot of fun! In the picture above, I picked up a Camp Half-Blood t-shirt at the The Red Pyramid book signing.

And during the release party of The Lost Hero, Mr. Riordan said that he would like to also write a book series with Norse Mythology, but at the time, he was busy writing his Greek/Roman and Egyptian series. If he starts writing the Norse series, it would be really cool to see how Odin, Thor, and Loki are portrayed. Will they be similar to what we’re used to, or will they be really different?

It’ll be fun to find out!

Update: Watch a video of the Mark of Athena event

Your friend,

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Filed under Audio CDs, BookPeople, Camp Half-Blood, Demigod, Dyslexia, Dyslexic, Greek, Heroes of Olympus, Learning Ally, Library, Mythology, Norse, Percy Jackson, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Reading, Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, Rick Riordan, Roman, The Lightning Thief, The Lost Hero, The Mark of Athena, The Red Pyramid

What Steven Spielberg, Movie Making, Dyslexia…and Me…Have in Common

Director Steven Spielberg
Photo Credit: Wikipedia and the Department of Defense

Steven Spielberg is famous for making movies. Most people know that. But there may be something that you don’t know about him. Steven Spielberg has dyslexia.

As a movie maker myself – OK a young, hopefully up and coming movie maker 😉 – I was so intrigued when I learned this new bit of information. Besides great filming making ability ;-), Steven Spielberg and I both have something else in common…dyslexia! 😉

Here I am at the premiere of my “Native Plant Avengers” video at the Lights Camera Help Focus on Good Film Festival.

A Rough Beginning

It turns out that Mr. Spielberg was bullied in school for being about two years behind his classmates in reading ability. Boy, can I relate. It took me over two years just to learn the alphabet! As I have shared in an earlier post, I could speak well for my age and had a great vocabulary, but I could not read at all when I was six, seven and not even by eight years old.

By the time I was about nine, all the other kids in the neighborhood were reading well…but not me. I could read a few words but not many. My skill was more like that of someone in kindergarten, at best. And I had already been in reading therapy for four years – what felt like a life time (at least to a kid). It wasn’t until about the age of 10 that I could start to recognize words.

It All Started in Kindergarten…

When I was six I started kindergarten as the smart kid but within a month I was the kid who couldn’t learn how to read, the kid who was no longer smart, the kid with a disability. How could this be?  Inside, I knew I was smart.  I was often the brunt of jokes but what hurt me the most was when well meaning teachers and other adults would whisper about me to one and other, “He has a disability…” Oh how bad that made me feel. They may have thought I couldn’t hear, but I heard.

I heard a lot of whispers. It was as though many adults had put me in a box that I could never get out of. They took away my hope and made me feel like some kind of weirdo. There is so much emphasis put on learning how to read as the road to success…that if you can’t read, people “write” you off.  In a kinder world it would be better not to label anyone disabled but instead to focus on what they can do – what they are good at. Everyone – no matter what – has something to offer to make society better.

High Block Protects the Face Very Well

I felt so alone and so sad when I was at school. I was only six and I already hated school. I was bullied so much on the playground and even got knocked out once.  It must have been quite a scene because I remember the school had to call my Mom who rushed right over. I was fine, but after that incident my Mom enrolled my in Taekwondo so I could learn how to defend my self.

I’ve never been a fighter but Taekwondo gave me so much confidence. Confidence in myself and the discovery that I was good at a sport! If it wasn’t for my parents, I don’t know what would have happened to me…in more ways than one!  I’m so grateful to my Mom, and my Dad too, who always stuck up for me and told me that I could do anything I wanted.

It’s Not A Disability!

My Mom also explained to me that I just learned differently. A learning difference.  That was a lot better than a disability.  My Mom never said I had a disability. I can’t begin to tell you how much that meant to me. It changed my life. When she said that I learned differently, I was relieved.  Don’t get me wrong, at the time different wasn’t great but it was better.  No six year old wants to be different, but at least it restored my hope.  Different didn’t mean I couldn’t succeed.   It just freed me to learn at my own pace…my own ability (not dis-ability). It’s really the time I can pinpoint to when I developed my optimistic spirit. I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been to have my Mom in my corner. She is really the right mom for me! 🙂

A Bright Future

As I find out more about famous people who have dyslexia – especially creative movie makers like Steven Spielberg – it gives me a great deal of hope about my future.  Along with a certified academic language therapist, numerous other tutors, and my Mom, who has homeschooled me for the past seven and a half years, I can finally read.  Yes, slowly – and I still have to sound out a lot of words. But that’s OK because I can finally do something that most kids have been able to do all along…read. Yes, maybe it was easy for them to get there but I caught up over time. Well, sort of caught up but I can read well enough to “get around town” as my Mom says. 😉 And now I don’t feel so different.  I feel special.  Special because I’m me.  I may have dyslexia but in a way I think it has also given me a very creative mind.

Indiana Jones – A Dyslexic’s Creation

And speaking of creative minds, Steven Spielberg definitely has one too!  One of my favorite movies is Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Indian Jones, his hat, and his whip are one of the coolest teams in history!  I look forward to the day when I can make action movies like that. 🙂  Hmmm…Commander Ben and the Raiders of the Lost Plants! 😉

It took a lot of hard work (and some rough patches here and there) to get where I am now. But along the way I also discovered all the other wonderful ways in which my brain works!  As I leave homeschooling behind, I can’t wait to start high school next year.  I have a lot to bring to my new school. I’m smart, creative, athletic, outgoing, friendly…and an all around nice guy…and I’m not disabled…I just learn differently! 😉

Ben 🙂 Age 14

The Future “Sounds” Bright

So if you have dyslexia, don’t worry.  There are bumps along the way but it does get easier.  We dyslexics have something special! 🙂  And remember, technology improves everyday putting us on a more even playing field with other kids.  Just five years ago, it would have been hard for me to do this blog because voice-to-text technology was no where near as good as it is today.  Who knows what amazing technologies await us in the future!

Your friend,

P.S. October is National Dyslexia Awareness Month! Happy October!

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Filed under Bullied, Certified Academic Language Therapist, Certified Academic Language Therapist, disability, Dyslexia, Indiana Jones, Learning difference, National Dyslexia Awareness Month, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Reading, Steven Spielberg, Steven Spielberg, Taekwondo