Dyslexia support with Picture Squirrels!

Published on: 03 September 2015 Author: Barrington Stoke

Publishers Barrington Stoke share the story of their innovative series of dyslexia-friendly picture books which feature accessible fonts, strong contrast, good spacing and uncluttered layout to ensure accessibility for all.

Dyslexia support with Picture Squirrels!

At a panel event a couple of years ago, a young man who struggled with reading told us that he had been really upset to discover that he couldn't 'even' read his young daughter's picture books.

This young man knew very well that parents who read to their children do them a huge service – building their store of language and sense of story and providing positive reinforcement about the value of books, reading, learning and discovery.

He was distressed not only because he was struggling to give these gifts to his child, but also because his self-confidence had taken a knock with the realization that he couldn't read a book aimed at a young child.

We reassured him as best we could that picture books aren't necessarily easy reads, since they aren't intended for children to tackle solo. We suggested he try picture books with audio CDs, wordless books, or books for beginning readers. We also put him in touch with our good friends at Dyslexia Scotland.

But the conversation stayed with us...

Picture Squirrels book covers a large number of the letters we receive from parents of dyslexic children explicitly state that one or other parent has dyslexia, and many more suggest it through reversed characters or quirky spelling. These parents often write to tell us of their delight in the fact that their children have been able to achieve something they have not – through our books, they have become readers.

We began to wonder if we could publish a small list of picture books that would work as fantastic reads for anyone but that would minimise obstacles for dyslexic parents who want to read with their children. These obstacles may include busy layouts with design elements under the text, complex fonts and deviation from 'left to right' approaches to text.

With a little help from our friends...

Michael Morpurgo was the first author to sign up to the list, saying:

'It's only by loving stories ourselves and by passing on that love that we create readers. I was immediately taken with the idea of Red Squirrel books, a picture book list that dyslexic parents and less confident readers can read with their children.'

Partners and supporters at The Reading Agency and Dyslexia Action undertook to help get books into the hands of those who could really benefit – we were able to add 2,000 free copies to the run to offer to libraries, childcare courses, prisons and young offender institutions. The last two are particularly pleasing since family reading for prisoners is a cause close to Michael Morpurgo's heart.

Bookseller, librarian and reviewer response to the list has been quite marvellous and a wonderful reminder that in the UK we have a huge community of people who all want the same thing – more people to read, to read more, and to love reading.

About the books...

The Picture Squirrels bring together beloved authors and fabulous illustrators in a series of picture books for anyone who's nuts about stories – with the added bonus of a cluster of special features designed to support families who are yet to crack the reading habit.

All I Said Was

All I Said Was

boy dreams of being able to fly like a bird. As luck would have it, he meets a pigeon who is equally keen to swap roles with him and he can finally experience his dream. It doesn't take long for the boy to discover that his feathered incarnation has drawbacks, such as being mobbed by other birds and attacked by a farmer.

Freddy and the Pig

Freddy and the Pig

Freddy hates school and thinks that it is boring, but he comes up with clever plan. The dyslexia-friendly features make this book highly accessible.

Itch Scritch Scratch

Itch Scritch Scratch

Head lice are the focus of this fun and engaging picture book. The reader is shown how quickly nits multiply and what nits look like under a microscope. The book also shows us a wide variety of ways to treat nits and prevent them. Some of the treatments and preventions are more successful than others!



Wolf Man has escaped from his cage and is wrecking the town. All of the people in the town are scared and are rushing to hide indoors.

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