Monday, November 08, 2010

"The act of reading is so easily taken for granted that we forget what an astounding feat it is."

Do you ever take being able to read for granted? What's amazing is how complex a task reading can be. I received a book in the mail from Penguin Books entitled Reading in the Brain: The New Science of How We Read that explains how we learn to read. The book discusses the psychology and neuroscience behind reading and asks a fascinating question, "How, then, did our primate brain learn to read?"

The book provides some good hypotheses for how we learned to read. I was most interesting in a chapter called "The Dyslexic Brain" that summarized thirty years of research on dyslexia. A definition of dyslexia is given:
a disproportionate difficulty in learning to read that cannot be attributed to mental retardation, sensory deficit, or an underprivileged background....Current estimates indicate that from 5 to 17 percent of children in the United States suffer from dyslexia.

The section on "Overcoming Dyslexia" reminds parents that genetics is not a life sentence. "The brain is a 'plastic organ' which constantly changes and rebuilds itself...."

Overall, the book looks like a worthwhile read if you are in the special ed field, a learning disabilities specialist, teacher, or have a child with a reading disability. If you can wade through the biological explanations, you will definitely learn much about the evolving science of reading and how to improve the ability to read.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember right before my daughter went to kindergarten, she was sitting on the couch and crying. I asked her why and she said that she was the only one in the family who couldn't read. I pointed out that Josie, (our beagle), couldn't read. She became distraught and screamed "Josie's a dog!!!!, of course she can't read."

She's 10 now and reads at a college level. It's amazing how fast she picked it up. Josie still can't read.

8:43 PM, November 08, 2010  
Blogger Away From The Brink said...

Funny thing about reading and how the brain works.

I am an adult student learning Putonghua, and find the reading part to be much easier to learn than the listening and speaking part. I have at least one classmate with the polar opposite difficulty--he can listen and speak it but has a very hard time remembering characters.

10:13 PM, November 08, 2010  
Blogger hayesatlbch said...

" "How, then, did our primate brain learn to read?"

Consider that while we now only consider understanding words on paper as reading ,that the ability to understand natural marks in nature and develop a story and meaning was important to the primate and later man to survive.

That pile of animal dung, temperature,smell, taste, appearance and composition in combination with specific shaped and size of marks on the ground could convey paragraphs of written material. By reading the signs that early man could know what animals passed, how long ago, what direction, how fast, how many, how big and what they had been eating and probably when they last had water.

How long would it take a modern man to learn to read and understand that natural language? I would guess years.

Man understood the need to read signs and symbols before writing and the better readers prospered more than the poor readers just like today.

10:34 PM, November 08, 2010  
Blogger Justthisguy said...

I have almost no memories of there being a time in my life which was before I knew how to read. Pre-reading memories are of throwing the bottle out of the crib, of the baby photographer, of getting the Salk vaccine when it came out, playing cowboys with the other 4-yr-old across the street, and that's about it.

1:17 AM, November 09, 2010  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Reading is fantastic. When I started school, a parochial grade school, we picked up our books a couple of weeks before school started. My older sister, age 9 at the time, sat me down and taught me to read in few days. When school started I could already read everything I needed to for the first grade.

The rapid interpretation of so many symbols arranged in a nearly infinite number of combinations is simply amazing.

8:24 AM, November 09, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't remember not being able to read either. I read *all the time* though - I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't read!

What's really amazing is when you see a 4-year-old just pick up a book and read - that's what my daughter did. I have no idea how she did it, and after the struggle I had with my older daughter, I just kind of watched in wide-eyed amazement. No one really "taught" her.

She's 5 now and reads over my shoulder, and except for longer words does pretty well with it (I have to watch what I have up on here sometimes!)

The human brain is a wondrous thing, isn't it? And the later readers do catch up - my older daughter (7) went from not being able to read on entering 1st grade to reading chapter books independently half way through that year.

9:25 AM, November 09, 2010  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

the initial stages of learning to read are remarkable in that we quickly form an understanding of a coded visual representation of linguistic structures...all before we "understand".

this is why richard bandler states that all learning is unconscious.

we repeat, repeat and repeat again, until we can regurgitate with "knowledge".

1:39 PM, November 09, 2010  
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7:46 PM, November 09, 2010  
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4:15 AM, November 11, 2010  

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