In the UK, over six million people are living with dyslexia. Despite this, 80% of children go undiagnosed during their education – a problem that has been exacerbated by remote learning.
Havas Lynx Group’s John McPartland, Creative Director, and Dave Eyre, Head of Copy, tell Dare! about Andi Goes, a new children’s book which aims to help parents spot the early signs of the condition and inspire children to embrace their differences.
The idea for Andi Goes came from a personal experience with dyslexia. Can you tell us about that and how it motivated the project?
Dave Eyre: My son Roel has dyslexia, but luckily, we were able to spot the signs early and get him specialist help. Whilst we were in the process of this, we saw how difficult it can be, and how there is still no statutory right in the UK to a diagnosis. That incensed Beth and me as parents.
When John and I were discussing this, we saw that out of the 870,000 children in the UK that live with dyslexia, only 150,000 are actually diagnosed, leaving hundreds of thousands without the support they need. There was a huge problem that needed addressing.
Tell us about the development of Andi and why he is a fitting protagonist in this story?
John McPartland: We wanted to create a story that children could relate to without it being overt what the book was intended for. After speaking with people who were left undiagnosed, and hearing of their struggles, Andi came to embody them. Not only did we want Andi to reflect the struggles that children face, but also to celebrate the positive traits that dyslexia can represent in people. For instance, how he tries to adapt to his surroundings by thinking about things in different ways to other people. After we tested the initial story with children, they warmed to how they could connect with him and maybe even see a little bit of themselves in him.
The book is said to have a dual purpose; helping children embrace what makes them different, but also help parents spot the early signs. How does it do both?
Dave Eyre: The first thing we wanted this book to be was a practical tool that could hopefully help parents spot possible signs of dyslexia early. To do this, we worked with Specialist Dyslexia Teachers to find out what signs they would look out for. These included Fry’s First 100 Words (the first 100 words a child should be able to recognise and read by the age of 6), corrective partial decoding, becoming frustrated with reading long passages and even colour contrasts of text.
John McPartland: These became the technical elements that we needed to think about when writing the story. However, for the child reading it, we wanted them to get a sense that being different can be seen as a positive thing. So, the story itself became a fable, that in your darkest moments there will always be a light that helps you through.
Dave Eyre: It’s a simple fable written in a very technical way – hiding the helpful code inside it.
Tell us about the look and feel of Andi Goes, and its storytelling and illustrations.
John McPartland: The styling is based on a few things, as the book is intended as a reading tool, we didn’t want the illustrations to take over. They are there to carry the story and give the child enough to engage with the book without just wanting to look at the illustrations. This also allowed us to hero Andi and create empathy with him, by stripping back the illustrations and using a limited palette for the surroundings so you can focus on his expressions – his frustrations, his anguish, and eventually his hope.
There was also a huge consideration towards using different page contrasts which is a component part of spotting signs. Children with dyslexia find it easier to read on yellowish pages and harder on dark pages. We were lucky enough to work with Paul Salmon, who has been working in the industry for decades on various children’s TV shows such as Danger Mouse and Count Duckula. He was able to take the vision for Andi and bring him to life.
Where is Andi Goes available and what has been the reaction to it?
Dave Eyre: We don’t think that there should be any barrier to a diagnosis, therefore we have made Andi Goes free to order via AndiGoes.com to anybody that wants a copy.
John McPartland: The reaction so far has been incredible and quite unexpected. We launched the project fully on World Book Day and by that evening we’d run out of the first edition run. We’ve had some lovely messages from parents and teachers who have been personally affected by dyslexia, saying they wished they’d had this available to them when they were young. Dyslexia is a condition that seems to effect so many people in so many ways, but its impact is rarely talked about. We’re hoping this goes some way to change that.