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PhD student secures publishing deal for debut book inspired by childhood with dyslexia

A PhD student from De Montfort University, Leicester (DMU), whose dyslexia left her isolated at school, is set to publish her first children’s book promoting inclusive literacy.

Jennifer Wilkinson, who is currently pursuing a PhD in Inclusive Literacy at DMU, drew on her own experiences being kept apart from other classmates in primary school because of her dyslexia, in writing The Horrendously Hungry Hoggel.

The book, which is full of adventure, courage and unexpected friendships, aims to empower children with learning difficulties to enjoy reading with limitless possibilities of imagination.

Jennifer said: “Reading is really important to me because I have dyslexia and when I was young there wasn’t really many audio books, the ones available were really expensive.

“Then one day I was gifted some audio books from a lady, I am not sure who but she completely changed the direction of my entire life with this gift.

“I became really into reading and writing, I started writing poems and then short stories. I have a real passion for helping children get into reading, especially those who have learning difficulties.”

She added: “Back in the 90’s when I was at primary school it was all about exclusion, I was always taken out and put in a separate class from my friends and we just played snap all day.

“Inclusion for me and having access to inclusive literacy that all students can be a part of and grow up with is really important. That’s why the creation of this book is so important to me.

“I am also very lucky to find an illustrator for the book who really turned my story into magic, I know what it feels like as a child not being able to read, so it was imperative the book had a strong visual element too.”

 As a functional skill English teacher, supporting students aged 16 and above with low literacy levels Jennifer often creates her own stories to use in her lessons.

Jennifer said: “I love writing little stories, I do it quite often this one came from a full moon in my garden one evening. I look at what is around me and let my imagination go with it.

“Writing little stories is something I have always done because I enjoy it, at the moment I am functional skills English teacher, I support students with very low literacy levels. “Sometimes I write little stories like this so they can pick out language features as part of my lessons just to make it a bit more interesting.”

Jennifer has been at DMU for three years part-time while teaching full-time, but is set to start working at DMU as a lecturer in the education department this July.

She said: “I am so excited to start working at DMU, it’s the best university! My current job I am an English teacher two days a week and the other three days I work at a college as a curriculum development coach. “I cannot express how supportive and inspirational my PhD thesis advisors at DMU have been.

“They have helped me to grow academically, professionally and personally, finding new and creative ways to express myself. I could not have asked for a better team to guide me on this journey and I can’t wait to start working at DMU very soon.”

The Horrendously Hungry Hoggel is set to be published within the next year with Pegasus Publishing.