Book Review: Why Tyrannosaurus But Not If?

Why Tyrannosaurus But Not If? by Richard Whitehead:
Dyslexia book review by Yvonna Graham


Author Richard Whitehead

Richard Whitehead facilitates the Davis Dyslexia Method at his center in the UK. His articles impressed me over the past few years. I share his admiration for Ron Davis’s pioneering dyslexia research. So, when he recently published a dyslexia book, Why ‘Tyrannosaurus’ But Not ‘If’?: The Dyslexic Blueprint for the Future of Education (The WhyTy Series) (Volume 1), I ordered it immediately. This book review tells you what’s inside so you’ll know whether you want to buy it.

Recognizing Tyrannosaurus

I loved the book. Whitehead does an outstanding job of explaining his unusual book name. Most dyslexic readers recognize a lot of big words, such a tyrannosaurus. But those same readers will repeatedly miss small connective words such as if, by, the, for, when. They miss them multiple times on the same page! Most reading programs fail to address this important piece of the dyslexic puzzle. Whitehead explains how and why the dyslexic mind requires meaning that can be pictured. A dyslexic student makes a mental picture of “tyrannosaurus,” but not of “if.”

Every Word Contains 3 Parts

Whitehead explains that every word contains three parts: what it means, what it looks like, and what it sounds like. His graphic of the three parts bears an uncanny resemblance to the graphic Dr. Alta Graham contributed for Dyslexia Tool Kit for Tutors and Parents. Her chart showed how  dyslexic readers can bypass the sight-to-sound pathway, going directly from sight to meaning. These two educators constructed astonishingly similar diagrams independently. Whitehead and Graham come from different countries, different perspectives, and different training! This gets my attention.

The Meaning of If

Whitehead adds valuable material for teachers and parents by describing in detail how to infuse visual imagery into words like “if.”  He recommends a method developed by Ron Davis, author of The Gift of Dyslexia. Whitehead’s description explains clearly what a teacher or parent must do to solidify a word in a student’s mind. Helpfully, Whitehead expands on Davis’s theories with examples from the classroom.

Davis Strategies

The last third of the book contains scripted lessons with illustrations, guiding teachers through various example lessons using Davis Dyslexia Learning strategies. At first, I wondered why Whitehead didn’t just refer his reader to Ron Davis’ book, rather than re-write in this format. But as I read through the lessons, I realized there was more to learn despite having read The Gift of Dyslexia several times. I use Davis’ techniques with students, and cite him in my own book. Yet, there were a few aspects I did not clearly understand until I read Whitehead’s lesson scripts. These lessons raised my understanding of Davis, and for that I am grateful.

Teaching Older Students

Dyslexia training and theory usually assumes elementary age learners. High school students who still struggle with reading suffer neglect and social pressure to drop out. Whitehead brings his experience as a secondary teacher to the fore. He presents actual case studies taken from his eleven years teaching high school. He analyzes the “behavior problems” that a student exhibits when covering up a learning difference. Then, he shows ways to give students tools they can use at the high school level. Finally, he offers hope to both teacher and student, by suggesting practical, workable techniques that can be reasonably used in a classroom, thus benefitting all students, dyslexic or not.

Tyrannosaurus Dyslexia Book Gets Five Stars

Why ‘Tyrannosaurus’ But Not ‘If’? is a dyslexia book well worth buying and reading by any teacher or parent of a dyslexic student. Whitehead shows how to use the Davis strategies to teach to the gift of dyslexia. I highly recommend it. Since Dr. Graham and I published Dyslexia Tool Kit a few years ago, readers often ask us about the “why” behind the tools in our book. We felt strongly that our book needed to be brief — just the tools a parent or tutor could grab and use with only minutes of reading. Thus we left out most of the “why” and focused on the “how.” Whitehead wrote the perfect book for readers wanting a deeper understanding.



Book review: Why Tyrannosaurus But Not If, by Richard Whitehead, available at Amazon

Dyslexia Book Cover: The Gift of Dyslexia, by Ronald Davis. Available at Amazon

Dyslexia Book Cover: Dyslexia Tool Kit for Tutors and Parents: What to do when phonics isn't enough, by Yvonna and Alta Graham. Available at Amazon