In 1896 the British physician William Pringle Morgan published an account of “Percy,” a “bright and intelligent boy, quick at games, and in no way inferior to others of his age.” Yet, in spite of his intelligence, Percy had great difficulty learning to read. Percy was one of the first children to be described as having word-blindness, better known today as dyslexia. In this first comprehensive history of dyslexia Philip Kirby and Margaret Snowling chart a journey that begins with Victorian medicine and continues to dyslexia’s current status as the most globally recognized specific learning difficulty. In an engaging narrative style, Kirby and Snowling tell the story of dyslexia, examining its origins and revealing the many scientists, teachers, and campaigners who put it on the map. Through this history they explain current debates over the diagnosis of dyslexia and its impact on learning. For those who have lived experience of dyslexia, professionals who have supported them, and scholars of social history, education, psychology, and childhood studies, Dyslexia reflects on the place of literacy in society – whom it has benefited, and whom it has left behind.
“Kirby and Snowling offer a superb understanding of the trends and issues relating to dyslexia from the late nineteenth century to present day. Far more than a chronology, this is an astute and cleverly researched account of the concept of dyslexia, its controversy, and the academic, political, and social influences that have shaped our current understanding of this disability. An outstanding piece of work.” Gavin Reid, co-author of The Dyslexia Assessment
“Kirby and Snowling do a great service to the study of dyslexia by analyzing, with clarity and authority, much of the hundred and fifty years of historical documents on dyslexia research, practice and policy, and placing them within a modern perspective. They show convincingly how a scientific understanding of dyslexia has grown over time, whereas the more social-focused arguments for difficulties in education and employment have been recognized for much of this history.” John Everatt, University of Canterbury
About the Authors:
Philip Kirby is lecturer in social science, King’s College London.
Margaret J. Snowling is professor of psychology, University of Oxford, and president of St John’s College.