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‘On a Beam of Light’ by Jennifer Berne & Vladimir Radunsky (and a personal story)

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I discovered this delightful book recently.  I was specifically looking for a book about the life of Albert Einstein for my eldest son (who is nearly nine) and came across this one.

We discovered that my son has severe dyslexia about 18 months ago and its been a bit of a roller coaster ride.  On one hand it was a relief (mostly to him!) that there was an explanation to why he just wasn’t getting reading and writing like his friends, but on the other hand we’ve had to find a new school (despite him being settled and happy where he was) and he has needed to change language (he was at a bi-lingual school before as my husband is German and they taught firstly in German with English as a 2nd language) – which have both been tough.

The hardest part for us was seeing his confidence deteriorate – whilst his friends started to read words, then sentences, then paragraphs and now books – he has looked-on confused as to why it seems so easy for them whilst 1 syllable words still get caught inside him, unable to find their way out.  His conclusion was natural (albeit wrong) – he must be stupid!  That belief slowly grew, until it was bigger than just ‘words’ – he forgets his gym kit at school; “It’s because I’m so stupid Mama”, he says with frustration … “No, its not, its because you’re 8 and human and sometimes we forget stuff!”.

As parents our hearts bleed – we needed to address his education, to put him into an environment that would not only be able to teach him to read and write but also a place that understood there are often wonderful side-effects of being dyslexic and the fact that dyslexic people ‘learn differently’ often makes them see the world differently – a way which can lead to endless opportunities if harnessed correctly.  We hope we found that place.  But secondly we needed him to start believing in himself again, to see that he is amazing … and not just in a “I’m amazing because my Mum thinks so” kind of way but in a “I’m amazing because my mind, thoughts & stories are exciting and inspire those around me and when I dream, my dreams are big and ambitious and because I’m stubborn and determined and …. because my Mum thinks I am”.

I wanted to tell my son about some amazing people, who have changed the world with their brilliance who were (or are) dyslexic … Leonardo da Vinci, Picasso, Andy Warhol, Muhammed Ali, Henry Ford, Richard Branson, Hans Christian Andersen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Steven Spielberg, Thomas Edison and even Albert Einstein.  Not a bad bunch of people to look up to.

So excuse my HUGE detour in this book review but I wanted to share with you a little bit about our personal journey … maybe you have experienced something similar? Maybe not because of a learning-difficulty but for another reason your child has experienced a dip in their self-esteem?  As parents it’s hard to know how to navigate.  I often take solace in a book and finding a story that can connect to the problem and bringing it out in the open, it maybe gives us a chance to talk about it but if not then we just sit together and enjoy a story – that in itself is a salve that soothes many wounds.

And so … whether you have a dyslexic child or not “On a Beam of Light” is a lovely story about Albert Einstein.  As the author points out at the end, the subject is a big one and with some “quite” tricky concepts to articulate! However Jennifer Berne edits this biography perfectly so there is a harmony between the story of one man’s life and the scientific facts & figures that inevitably go with it.  There is almost a poetry to Einstein’s discoveries which is complimented by Vladimir Badunsky’s illustrations. I especially like how we see the ageing process of Einstein … he starts the book as a baby and ends as an old man.  The illustrations are tender & soft and the faces are kind, immediately you are so engaged with this interesting man.  By the end, we know a little bit more about the significance of Einstein’s thinking but we’re also inspired to think for ourselves and think big, to think in pictures to see things as they could be … because maybe they are? to ask questions, to try and answer questions no one else can and to relish the power of thought – the message is a good one for all of us but especially our kids!

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On a Beam of Light is available in the UK here and the US here.

Mo. x


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Comments (9)

Nina
January 15, 2016

Dear Mo,
thanks so much for not only sharing this beautiful book (will order it!) but also your personal story. Our oldest daughter is 10 and two years ago we recognised that she is dyslexic too. It’s so good to talk about it! Sometimes I feel I am the only one in this, thanks for the reminder that we are in this together!
Best, Nina xx


Mo
January 15, 2016

Hi Nina – it’s definitely good to know you are not alone! And (as I discover) we really are not. What has been great for me is talking to lots of friends who I’ve known for years and now discover they are dyslexic. So interesting to hear their stories of growing up with dyslexia (I think it’s easier for our kids as it is recognised and understood better now)but also so reassuring to know they grew up into happy human beings, doing good jobs and generally living good lives! All the best, Mo


Lynn Frieda
January 15, 2016

Hi Mo,
Thank you for recommending this book. The presentation is beautiful! And what a sweet story you’ve told of your son. Our little boy is not dyslexic son, but we have many friends who are, and they are such special people! I’m ordering the book. Our son will love it. 🙂 xxLynn


Mo in London
January 15, 2016

Hi Lynn – thank you for your comment. It is a lovely book (and actually not at all about dyslexia, it was only me that made the connection!) – Its a lovely book to inspire all children to be brave and ambitious with their thoughts!


Anna
January 15, 2016

What a touching post. Thank you for sharing your story and the book! My son has finally been diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, which was initially brushed off as anxiety and over-fussing parents. Now the last four and a half years all make sense and we start a new part of our journey with our son, together with supportive professionals, building upon the things we have been doing intuitively as parents. Self esteem is such a fragile thing for all ages.


Mo in London
January 15, 2016

Oh it must be a relief Anna to have a diagnosis. Once you know what you are dealing with it is actually quite liberating. We had lots of issues with my sons previous school as they have hardly any support for any SEN – I have always thrown myself into my kids school lives baking cake for fairs and doing all the things to be part of a positive school community and then I found myself amongst very angry and hurt parents, fighting to get their child the support they deserved in order to get a good education – it was incredibly emotional be part of such a negative system – not just because of our own part of that story but even more so actually for the broader group of children being neglected. It is really hard when you are around people who don’t understand (or want to accommodate) your children’s needs. I feel happy we have found another route for our son but it was desperately desperately sad to take him away from friends he has had since he was 3. I hope everything works out well for you and your son – I’m sure it will. I keep reminding myself that there is literally nothing that can’t be overcome with children feeling and knowing they are loved by us!


January 16, 2016

Thank you for sharing your story. Tell him if he speaks two languages he’s already brilliant – and I’m not his mother, ha, ha! Wow, I had no idea all those artists had dislexia! The book looks great, thanks for the tip! Love,
Marta


Lisa
January 16, 2016

Thank you for sharing. I have been through something with my son for a year now, he wasn’t talking as the Dr believed he should be. He wasn’t saying ‘mummy’ at 2. I would cry myself to sleep at night wondering if he was autistic? Would he ever speak? I wanted what any mother wants for their child which is the opportunity to live their best life. We have been having speech therapy now for nearly a year and he has improved so much, still not really conversing naturally but saying many many words. I still have moments of panic and fear but I remind myself how lucky that we can help him as best we can. Good luck to you! I ordered th ebook, because many people have said to me during the year ‘Einstein didn’t talk till he was 4!’ Lets hope its just a simple delay.


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meta
January 16, 2016

Oh, I’ve heard of this book before and have wanted to get it. Now it’s on my list. Have you read the book David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell? In it there is a section dedicated to people with dyslexia and why dealing with such difficulties early in life programs them to be more creative and think outside of the box, and do things differently. Explaining why so many highly intelligent, creative, innovative people have dyslexia. It’s a really good read.


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