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The following piece was written by Toby Rosewater, an insightful student with dyslexia, who shares his journey and techniques to a love for writing.

Learning To Love Writing With Dyslexia

First, a couple of questions…

Have you ever had an idea or a narrative that you never shared—perhaps because someone told you that you couldn’t do it? Have you ever been told that your dyslexia will stop you from becoming a great writer or a thoughtful, critical reader?

I am a high school student with dyslexia. Not so long ago, I attended a school for students with language-based learning disabilities. Because of this, it is surprising to some that I am now a flourishing young writer, having participated in prestigious programs such as the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio and the Kenyon Young Writers’ Workshop. At those places, I worked with immensely talented creatives and studied under a number of great authors. Additionally, my work has been recognized at the national level in an essay contest, and next year I will be the senior managing editor of my high school’s literary and arts magazine.

How can both of those things be true at the same time? How can a person be a writer and dyslexic? Moreover, how can a writer with dyslexia develop and hone their skills? While I can’t speak for everyone, I’d like to share a few thoughts and strategies that I have learned throughout my journey.

For one thing, I’ve learned that writing is not simply about putting pen to paper, showing a superior linguistic ability, or producing a kind of magnum opus. Rather, it is about communicating your ideas with others. In that sense, anyone who can communicate can write. I wish someone had told me that years ago. Instead, back then, I watched my frustrated tears hit the colorful picture books I couldn’t read and assumed I couldn’t write. Really, you do not need to be a perfect writer to create a work of literature. You have thoughts, you have ideas, you have observations, and all of those things are uniquely yours; hence, only you can take them and create with them.

What is more, in terms of technology, there has never been a better time to be a dyslexic writer than now. Throughout my journey, I’ve used technology to help me discover other people’s ideas and communicate mine. I want to share this technology with you. Perhaps it will help you love creative writing and minimize unnecessary struggle.

For writers, workshopping can be an essential part of the process. In workshops, writers gather together, read each other’s stuff, and give feedback. I’ve always had trouble following just the words on the page. I find I get lost, and because I get lost, I struggle to follow along. But, when I both read and listen to a text, my confusion transforms into comprehension.

Of course, in creative writing workshops, as in many situations, there are no audiobooks available. So, how do I listen to a text when there is no audiobook? I create my own. There are several sites for this. My favorite at the moment is NaturalReader. If a text is online or in a digital format, you can copy and paste it into NaturalReader’s text box, and the application uses speech synthesis to transform it into spoken language. The voices on NaturalReader are—well—natural and can sound indistinguishable from real voices. Additionally, I use NaturalReader to help me proofread. I get exhausted when proofreading my work, hindering my ability to edit. Because of this, I always paste my work into NaturalReader and listen to the text as I proofread. By doing this, I always catch a few errors.

I also believe that listening to my writing has made it better. Excellent writing has great voice creation. “Voice,” in writing, encompasses the blend of style, language selection, perspective, sentence structure, punctuation, and flow that make up a work’s text. When you listen to your work being read out loud, you often realize how the words in your story flow together and how they might sound to someone else. In this way, I find that listening to my writing helps me create a voice that is distinctly and accurately me. Even when I don’t use NaturalReader, I still read and proofread out loud to myself, a strategy that helps me follow along and understand how I want to sound.

Better yet, you can even use NaturalReader when the text you are trying to read is not online. You can take photos of the text and transform the images into a text document that a computer can read using OCR (optical character recognition). Most phones can do this within their photos app. Still, an infallible alternative is Online OCR, which will take any photo or PDF and transform it into a document with digital text that can be copied and pasted anywhere, including NaturalReader. If the document you need to read is 30 pages and hence 30 photos, I recommend combing the images into one PDF (almost any PDF scanner app can do this). That way, the OCR spits out one PDF instead of 30 separate one-page documents. By following some form of the steps I outlined above, you can take any page of text and turn it into natural sounding, audible speech.

Before I go, I want to circle back to what I said earlier.

You do not need to be a perfect writer to create a work of literature.

If you can speak, you can write. Today, hundreds of programs can convert your speech into text. Speech-to-text makes writing accessible for those who struggle with traditional keyboarding and handwriting. Speaking is a great way to easily get your thoughts out onto the page. There are many great sites for speech-to-text, but I recommend Speechtexter as it works well and is straightforward.

Again, writing is not simply reading—it is not simply text—it is the art of communication: taking real-life stories, real-life feelings and communicating them creatively. In my opinion, engaging in audible, narrative-based movies, TV, and even video games—not just reading—can make you a better writer. I have taken an unconventional path to writing. Many people, including some authors and teachers, will tell you that to become a great writer, you need to read, read, read. This may be partially true, but more truthful, in my experience, is that to become a great writer, you need to engage, engage, engage. We all have the ability to do that, and in turn, we all have the ability to become great writers.

Recommended Resources:

Text-to-Speech Sites:

NaturalReader (naturalreaders.come)

Speechify (

(There are free versions of both NaturalReader and Speechify. Natural Reader has a daily 20- minute time limit, and Speechify limits its voice catalog but offers access with unlimited time. There are paid versions of both; I have a yearly subscription to NaturalReader because I think the voices are better, it works more often, and I find its “plus” features, such as speech to mp3, to be helpful. Nevertheless, these sites can be used for free.)

OCR Sites:

Kami (

Online OCR (

Photo to PDF Sites / Apps:


Adobe Scan (App)

Simple Scanner (App)

Good Speech-to-Text Sites:

Speechtexter (

Speechnotes (