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Studying with dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties

Expert guidance from Study Advice at the University of Reading

Tips for reading

Reading can be a particular worry for dyslexic students, especially as it is such an important part of university study. The key is to have a reading strategy. Think about what you want to know before you start reading. Use the texts as tools and they will help you to achieve your study purposes.

Practise active reading

Before you start to read, think about why you are reading this text.

- What do you already know about the topic?

- What do you want to find out?

- How are you going to use your knowledge?

Write yourself some questions, and look for the answers.

Be selective

- Look for what you need in the table of contents, or side navigation if it's an electronic document.

- Read the abstract if it's a journal article and use that to decide how much more you need to read.

Break it down

- Read one paragraph at a time, writing notes when you get to the end.

- Look for the answers to the questions you've set up and focus your notes on these, adding anything interesting that you find.

Tip: Try to write in your own words rather than copy and paste. Or record your ideas and transcribe later. You are more likely to remember ideas if they are in your own words.

Make it accessible

- Try a reading ruler (available from the Disability Advisory Service) or coloured overlay to help you focus.

- If you're reading onscreen, change the font size and colour, or background colour to reduce contrast. Play about till you find the size and colour that suits you.

Use accessibility software

- Use text-to-speech software like Read and Write Gold (available on Library PCs).

- Try recording your notes and ideas as memos on your laptop, phone or dictaphone.

The Library has a dedicated Disability Co-ordinator, Matthew Holtby, who can advise you on accessing texts and software. Email Matthew at m.c.holtby@reading.ac.uk

Further tips for reading

SQ3R
Introduced by Francis P. Robinson, in the 1940s, SQ3R is a reading comprehension method named for its five steps: survey, question, read, recite, and review. This method helps to make reading a more active and engaging, and less passive activity. An outline of the method can be found here


Text Mapping
Developed by Dave Middlebrook in the 1990s, Text Mapping is a technique for visualising how the content of a text has been organised. It involves marking different text features as a way of better understanding and retaining the content. Further information can be found by visiting the Text Mapping Organisation

E-books and dyslexic/dyspraxic students

The e-book format can be especially helpful if you have dyslexia or dyspraxia. Useful features include:

  • being able to increase the size of the font
  • easy searching of the text for keywords
  • facilitates use of text-to-speech software
  • outlines displayed in navigation bars can help you to see the structure of the argument

Our guides and videos on reading and note-making