Professor Owls Book Corner March 2020

Welcome to the March 2020 Issue of Professor Owl’s Book Corner Newsletter where in addition to supporting those with special needs and learning challenges, we are also committed to being more focused on YA/New Adult reading and literacy. We will be featuring tips from a certified literacy tutor to help make your reading experience the best it can be.

We will also be encouraging young writers and artists with tips, writing exercises and will still be updating our Community News Boards with the latest news from Variety Village and The March of Dimes.

Please feel free to give us your feedback on our new issue, also send us any ideas you may have to help Professor Owl’s Book Corner be all that it can be. We look forward to hearing from you and to bring you a new, more interesting newsletter.


Understanding Learning Challenges

By Sylvia W. McGrath

A learning difficulty is a condition that can cause an individual to experience problems in a traditional classroom learning setting. It can interfere with literacy skills development and math it might also affect memory and the capability to concentrate and organizational skills. When a child or adult has a learning difficulty they may need extra time to complete assignments at school and can often benefit from another approach for instruction and classroom accommodations, such as material delivered in special fonts or the ability to use a computer to take notes.

No two individuals with a learning difficulty are exactly alike and many conditions, such as dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia, exist on a wide spectrum. There is also dyspraxia, a motor-skills difficulty that can affect a learner’s ability to write by hand and may impact on planning skills. It’s not uncommon for learning difficulties and motor-skills difficulties can occur together. For example, dyslexia and dyspraxia, or ADD/ADHD and dyspraxia can occur at the same time.

Learning difficulties are sometimes referred to as learning disabilities. A person with a learning difficulty may view him or herself as a failure. The word disability implies a person is less able than his or her peers. It can also suggest they are in an ongoing position of being handicapped and causes them to lose confidence.

You may also encounter the terms of learning differences or specific learning differences. The differences between these labels can seem subtle but may have implications on how an individual with a learning difficulty now sees themselves in a different light.

The word learning difference takes the opposite approach in underscoring that a person simply learns in a different way from others. They are not disabled, it’s just that their brains work differently. The term learning difficulty falls somewhere in-between, describing the added challenges an individual might face in a typical school environment, but also suggesting that these challenges are difficulties that can be overcome.

1. Dyslexia:

Dyslexia is one of the most common learning difficulties ~ also known as learning disabilities, in the US. There are different types of dyslexia but the most common type is phonological dyslexia which affects the way people break words down into their component parts.

This has resulted in decoding reading and can also cause spelling and writing difficulties. As reading and writing are central to most school curriculum’s, children with undiagnosed dyslexia can quickly fall behind their peers as they experience problems with note-taking, reading, homework, writing assignments and assessments.
Dyslexia is not associated with lower intelligence, but language difficulties can cause children to believe they are less intelligent than their peers and result in low-confidence and a poor self-image.

  • Some common signs of dyslexia include problems reading out loud.
  •  Inconsistent spelling, a student may be able to spell a word one day and not the next.
  • Losing one’s place on a page.
  • A poor grasp of phonics,
  • Letter reversals.
  • Halted writing due to trouble with spelling.
  • Vocabulary that’s more limited in range

2. Attention difficulties

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) at one time were grouped under the umbrella term of ADD. However, in recent years it is ADHD that has become the general label for attention difficulties, both with and without hyperactivity.

  • ADHD with hyperactivity is often characterized by difficulties maintaining focus over extended periods.
  • Children with ADHD can have poor impulse control, they can be fidgety, and produce messy written work. They are often easier to pick out in a classroom than a student who has ADD without hyperactivity, as in the case of the latter a learner may not call any attention to themselves.
  • A learner with ADD may appear to be paying attention and thus the learning difficulty can go unnoticed until it results in incomplete assignments and poor performance on tests. In certain instances, a child may even be told they are just not trying hard enough.
  • Reading comprehension, staying on task, following directions, completing extended projects, and organization can all be problematic.

3. Dysgraphia

  • Children who struggle with dysgraphia have a hard time with writing and may produce text that is unreadable.
  • Writing can be difficult, taking a long time to complete and causing frustration and stress.
  • The spatial orientation and planning aspects of writing can be particularly challenging for people with dysgraphia. This includes planning the white spaces between letters and words, writing in a straight line and lines of text that are vertically spaced.
  • Staying in the margins, using punctuation and choosing between capital and lowercase letters may also be hard.
  • Letter formation itself might be difficult and typing on the computer is often a suggested accommodation at school.
  • Children with dysgraphia are often eager to avoid handwriting, particularly in front of their peers.
  • They may feel embarrassed when writing on the board, produce less text than is necessary for written assignments and can generally perform poorly on assessments that require written answers.

4. Dyscalculia

As opposed to dyslexia and dysgraphia which are both language-based learning difficulties, dyscalculia has to do with processing numbers.

  • Children with dyscalculia can have trouble performing simple arithmetic.
  • They may not know how to approach a math problem sometimes
  • At times the spatial part of balancing equations is tricky, as well as grouping numbers and performing the right order of operations.
  • Even counting can be a struggle and it is often recommended that individuals with dyscalculia be allowed to use a calculator to support their learning.
  • When dyslexia and dyscalculia are present together, reading word problems is made more difficult, and number reversals may be frequent.
  • This can introduce errors into the work and cause a student to get the wrong answer.
  • Dysgraphia and dyscalculia together mean a child often finds showing math worked in long-form particularly difficult to complete.
  • Writing math symbols may be near impossible, as can certain spatial or graph-oriented aspects of math.
  • Lastly, in dyspraxia and dyscalculia, getting steps in the right order can be a problem.

5. Dyspraxia

  • While not always grouped under the learning difficulties/ learning disabilities header, dyspraxia is a motor skill difficulty that can also impact on academic success.
  • That’s because it affects the planning and coordination of muscles, including those of the hand.
  • As gripping the pen or pencil in written language production is painful, writing may contain more spelling errors and less text as a result.
  • In cases of verbal dyspraxia/ apraxia of speech, the muscles of the face, mouth, and throat are affected, limiting spoken language production.
  • People with dyspraxia may also walk with a funny gait, have trouble using a paintbrush in art class, experience difficulties playing a musical instrument, and performing coordinated movements in sports.
  • They can be clumsy and might also struggle with organization and tasks that involve planning.
  • In addition, some students may present with processing issues.
  • Slow processing can mean a child requires more time to complete school assignments and additional exposures are needed to bring information into working memory.
  • Expressive and receptive language disorder and apraxia of speech are also language-based difficulties that cause issues with comprehension and spoken language production.

When a learning difficulty is suspected, it’s typically recommended that an individual be screened. This is done using a short and sometimes online assessment tool that can indicate whether more testing is recommended. If dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD or dyscalculia are suspected, comprehensive testing can be performed by an educational psychologist, or in some cases a speech and language therapist.

The reason for this is no two people with a learning difficulty struggle with the same set or severity of symptoms and thus it’s important to understand where strengths and problem areas lie in order to provide the best strategy training and accommodations

Accommodations and technology:

It’s often recommended that individuals who struggle with specific learning and motor skills difficulties be allowed to use a computer to complete schoolwork. One reason for this is typing takes care of many of the presentation aspects of writing, from letter formation to spacing and neatness.
For individuals who struggle with language-based difficulties, learning to touch-type also helps to encode a word as a series of muscle movements in the fingers, which supports spelling skills. Additionally, writing on a device opens up access to auto-complete, predictive text, and spell-checkers. It is also easier and less painful for students with dysgraphia and dyspraxia to type rather than write by hand try Touch-type Read and Spell
However, learning to type may not be as easy for students with learning difficulties as it is for their peers. Typing programs that emphasize speed over accuracy put pressure on students to perform in timed lessons. They also may not offer accessible displays, which can lead to more frustration and lower confidence.
TTRS Touch-type Read and Spell were developed to help individuals with learning difficulties master typing so they can access technology and avoid handwriting at work or at school. At the same time, it was designed to help strengthen literacy skills. The program takes a dyslexia-friendly Orton-Gillingham based approach which is multi-sensory.

Students hear the words, see them on screen and type them out, which helps to reinforce learning in memory. Lessons are broken down into bite-sized modules so they can be repeated as many times as is necessary and every student can learn at his or her own pace. Additionally, the words presented follow a program of English phonics, so students enhance decoding, sight-reading and spelling skills as they progress.
TTRS ~ Touch-type Read and Spell are accuracy-based, which means students must correct mistakes in order to move on. It’s a learning program that builds confidence gradually as learners repeat modules and improve their skills.
Learning typing not only makes it easier for individuals with learning difficulties to access other tools and online programs, but it builds confidence and self-esteem too!
If you liked this post, have a read through these articles on developing spelling skills, encouraging students with learning difficulties and what motivates students to learn. Keep following Professor Owl for more articles like this and suggested ways to improvements your reading and writing skills. Write to to answer your questions and get more information.

Wise Picks

Three of Seven Books Introducing Characters

With Dyslexia or ADHD

The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief-F

By Rick Riordan

That was so great about me? A dyslexic, hyperactive boy with a D+ report card, kicked out of school for the sixth time in six years.” That’s what 12-year old Percy used to think. But that was before he discovered his true identity ~ as a demigod, throws a modern-day twist into ancient Greek mythology. And this popular, action-packed adventure story helps kids rethink their own abilities. Plus, there’s a movie version that could help spark the interest of reluctant readers.

Typically recommended for kids: Ages 9+

Fish in a Tree


by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

In Fish in a Tree, a sixth grader Ally Nickerson is clever at hiding her reading and writing issues. How? She acts out in class and creates distractions, so people won’t figure out what’s really going on. But with the help of her teacher, Mr. Daniels, Ally discovers that she has dyslexia. She gets the support she needs, and her self-confidence skyrockets. This New York Times best-seller sends kids an uplifting message as Ally begins to recognize her own strengths.

 Recommended kids: Ages 10+

“My Name Is Brain Brian”


by Jeanne Betancourt

Brian thinks he’s dumb. It doesn’t help that kids laugh when he reads aloud and writes on the board at school. But Brian’s sixth-grade teacher notices him reversing the letters of his name. That makes her suspect he has dyslexia—and she’s right. With more help from his school, Brian finally comes to realize that he’s a smart kid who learns differently. My Name Is Brain Brian reinforces the idea that kids can learn to work around their issues and achieve their goals.

Recommended for kids: Ages 8–12

In books, the most compelling characters often remind us of ourselves. These great reads may resonate with kids with dyslexia or ADHD. That’s because the heroes in these books share those challenges—and the triumphs that come with them.

In these books, the most interesting characters often remind us of ourselves. These great reads may resonate with kids with dyslexia or ADHD. That’s because the heroes in these books share those challenges—and the triumphs that come with them.

Check next months newsletter for another four books in this group. we will also try to bring you more of these great books and video’s


This months book is not a new book release, it was published a few years ago.  I really enjoyed reading this book so much, that I just had to share with our readers in the Book Corner .

City of Ghosts

City of Ghostsf

by Victoria Schwab (Author)

From #1 NYT bestselling author Victoria Schwab comes a sweeping, spooky, evocative adventure, perfect for fans of “Stranger Things” and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

Ever since Cass almost drowned (okay, she did drown, but she doesn’t like to think about it), she can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead . . . and enter the world of spirits. Her best friend is even a ghost.

So things are already rather strange. But they’re about to get much stranger.

When Cass’s parents start hosting a TV show about the world’s most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh, Scotland. Here, graveyards, castles, and secret passageways teem with restless phantoms. When Cass meets a girl, who shares her “gift,” she realizes how much she still needs to learn about the Veil — and herself.  She will have to learn fast. The city of ghosts is more dangerous than she ever imagined.

This book was a really great read, I enjoyed it more as I know Edinburgh very well, I lived outside of the city when I was in my teens and I could actually visualize the streets and buildings as described in the book.

Even though this is a middle grade book it would appeal to all ages.  I will give this book five stars, the writing is very good, the characters and plot were well thought out.  It was such a good read, I was unable to put the book down until I had finished reading to the very last page.

I understand that there may be more books in this series, if so I will be on the way to a good binge read, looking forward to reading them and the other books written by Victoria Schwab.

This books and others by this author can be purchase from,,  and other fine book stores and of course your Local Libraries.

  About the Author

Victoria schwab 2

Victoria “V.E.” Schwab is the #1 NYT, USA, and Indie bestselling author of more than a dozen books, including Vicious, the Shades of Magic series, and This Savage Song. Her work has received critical acclaim, been featured by EW and The New York Times, been translated into more than a dozen languages, and been optioned for TV and Film. The Independent calls her the “natural successor to Diana Wynne Jones” and touts her “enviable, almost Gaimanesque ability to switch between styles, genres, and tones.”

She is represented by Holly Root at Root Literary and Jon Cassir at CAA.

All appearance and publicity inquiries should be directed to her PR rep, Kristin Dwyer, at:


Writing prompts are a wonderful way to kick-start your creativity and generate ideas. There isn’t a right or wrong way to respond, just be honest, be creative and use your imagination!

Write, be creative and most of all HAVE FUN! 

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ~ Anne Frank

Stone Angel

Write about what you can do at this very moment to make a positive difference in someone’s life.  Will you donate time, objects or money to a charity? Will you do something to help out a friend, neighbour or complete stranger? Reflect and write! 🙂

 Writing Prompt~A picture is worth a thousand words…


“That is one good thing about this world…there are always sure to be more springs.” ~L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

Spring is in the air! Using your five senses write about what sights, sounds etc. you enjoy most about the spring season?

Get creative, write and most of all, have fun! 🙂

A Young Writer’s Guide to Creating Characters

Fountain Pen

Uninteresting or two-dimensional characters are the make or break issue for me when reading a novel.  If I can’t relate to the characters, can I care enough to read the remainder of their story?  As a writer, you will also have to like your character and want to get to know them.  Face it you will be investing a great deal of your time with them over the length of writing the story. Try to infuse your characters with a little bit of yourself, your interests, hopes, dreams, fears…, an old saying is “write what you know” which can be expressed through your characters. Here are some other simple steps to make your characters come to life.

Motivate your character to move through your plot, you must give your character a goal or mission and one that is important enough to drive them through the story.  What is it they want? What do they need? What do they fear, or hope will happen to them? Make sure to also give them obstacles to overcome.

Make them real, humans are inherently flawed beings; we aren’t perfect each of us has both positive and negative traits. Create “real” characters, fill them with insecurities, make them get angry, give them quirks and opinions, let them cry.  The trick is to remember to balance both the good and the bad.

Give them consequences if they don’t reach their goal. What will happen if they don’t meet their goal or mission? Will someone else suffer? Will they suffer? How will they feel?  Make sure they care about what happens if they can’t fulfil their mission add a sense of urgency.

Make each character unique both in personality, voice and physical description. By creating details about their style of dress, gait (the way they walk), physical mannerisms, emotions as well as their story backgrounds.  Too many similar characters will be confusing for both you, as the writer and the reader.

Your characters shouldn’t know everything about what is happening.  As is true with real life, not everyone has all the answers, keep your characters guessing as well as the reader. The reader will have to find out alongside the characters.

Avoid falling into lazy stereotypes when writing a character, which most of the time are completely inaccurate and even worse incredibly offensive.

Show don’t tell applies to your characters as well don’t say they were angry or sad, show it through their actions and interactions with others.

Community Boards


  Variety Village is a family-friendly fitness, sports and life skills facility in Toronto.

There are programs for all ages and skill levels, join today!

    No events schedule for March, 2020.    


Variety Village is pleased to host exciting special events throughout the year. Our goal is to connect with our community and raise funds to support Variety Village by creating mutually beneficial events that support healthy, active lifestyles in an inclusive environment.

We’ll periodically send you news and updates regarding special events, facility closures & alerts, and other important information

Events · Restrictions & Closures · Variety Village in Toronto

Local Events | Variety – the Children’s Charity of Ontario

 Access Expo – Variety Ontario

Discover ability-enhancing products and services, play adaptive sports and attend informative workshops. Register for free today! This inaugural year will showcase programs and services promoting: accessibility, inclusion, healthcare, sport, fitness, and healthy living at a premier accessible facility – Variety Village in Scarborough, Ontario.

Home | Variety Ontario

How we help. Variety programming empowers children with disabilities to be seen, participate, and feel included. We bring accessible facilities to life with sports, fitness, activities, summer camps, skills training, and coaching for competitive and Paralympic athletes.

Active Living Conference – Variety Ontario

 Access Expo – Variety Ontario

Active Living Conference – Variety Ontario



Events for March 2020


Dodging for Dimes Vancouver

Sunday, March 1, 2020

12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Creekside Community Centre, 1 Athletes Way, Vancouver, BC​

Get your corporate team or a team of friends together for this fast and fun charity tournament on Sunday, March 1, 2020 at Creekside Community Centre, 1 Athletes Way, Vancouver, and help raise money for people with physical disabilities through March of Dimes Canada.

Each player is asked to raise a minimum of $75 in pledges and there is a team registration fee of $100.

No training, no practice, just loads of fun but with big impact for 129,000 Canadians living with physical disabilities.

Benefitting Stroke Recovery Association of British Columbia
an affliate of March of Dimes Canada
Visit for more details. 

​​​For more information contact:
Berat Barzanjee
Fund Development Assistant ​
March of Dimes Canada
10 Overlea Blvd.​
Toronto, ON M4H 1A4
Phone:(416) 425-3463 ext. 7305