About Reading and Writing English

About Reading and Writing English

Learning to read and write English can be challenging. There are harder languages than English to learn.

English is the most studied language in the world. Over 53 countries (including Australia) have English as their official language.

In multi-cultural Australia, English is the language that enables us to communicate effectively with one another.

Introduction:

What sets humans apart from animals is language.

It is language that enables us to think and communicate with one another. We form all our concepts through words.

If our thinking is confined to the words we hear and speak our intellectual development is limited for it is through the written word that complex thinking is recorded and communicated.

The Alphabet is the foremost invention of all time. It enables the recording of an infinite number of words to communicate human achievement. 

Reading and writing have a language base. They are skills which contribute to personal growth and enable people to contribute to society in countless ways.

All skills have fundamental principles that underpin them.  When these principles are understood and mastered the skill can be established through practice.

To master any skill involves the correct form of practice and continuous effort. We are not born with the ability to read and write. People need to be taught how.

I have been a teacher for over 35 years and have seen first hand how many children and adults struggle with reading.

My experience within the school system led me to search for answers to this problem. It didn't make sense to me that some very young children could read easily while many older children, teenagers and adults struggle and give up.

A lot of research has been done into reading trying to find the answers. Some of the findings will be outlined in this post.

One of the fundamental reasons many people have trouble learning to read is they do not understand how an alphabetic writing system works.

Understanding how The English Alphabetic Writing System works can be taught in a systematic way – step by step, one step at a time.

Learning the mechanics of reading and writing is like cracking a code. Once a person understands how to crack the code they can concentrate on the information the text presents. For we read to get information.

It is never too late to learn to read and write because they are not biological processes. 

       A Brief History of Writing

The pictures of primitive man were often recorded in caves or on tablets.  These are known as pictography or ideography. The spoken word was used to interpret these pictures often of a religious or spiritual nature. Oral traditions grew from these interpretations.

The first writing systems appeared about the 4th Century BC in the Middle East.

The first two systems were: The Sumerian Cuneiform Script and Egyptian Hieroglyphs.
The Chinese Script (characters) developed around 1600 BC.

Olmec and Maya scripts also developed before Columbus discovered the 'New World'.

Characters were added to picture symbols in an attempt to depict what was being said more accurately. Some characters represented whole words and some parts of words. Thousands of characters and symbols were used to record the more complex needs of developing civilizations.

Learning to read was a huge task. Hieroglyphics had to be learned by memory. Some hieroglyphics incorporated phonetic clues. Learning hieroglyphics was laborious and tedious and only scholars and priests were the experts.                     

The Alphabet

The fundamental idea behind an alphabet is one symbol per sound in a given language. Writing is recording these sounds with a symbol.

A successful reader knows what sound each symbol represents and blends the sounds into recognizable words. Once this process is automatic the real purpose for reading (meaning) can develop.

The Alphabet is the foremost invention of all time. It opened up knowledge and communication for humanity.

This first alphabet is the direct descendant of all the alphabets used in the world today.

 The English Alphabet

 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

About English

Every language is the world's most important language to its speaker.

The modern world is linked through communications as never before. With it has come to the explosive growth of the English language. It is not because English is a superior language that causes it. Historical factors have put English in the position it holds today.

Over one billion people in the modern world speak and understand English. The language that influenced the European languages can be traced to more than 4000 years ago to the plains of India. Migration of tribes and groups of people can be mapped, and the historical development of languages can be traced.

The strength of English since its origins is its capacity to absorb other languages. It began in Europe as a few local Germanic dialects spoken by a hundred and fifty thousand people.

In the 5th Century, Germanic warrior tribes arrived in Britain as mercenaries to keep the peace after the Roman Empire collapsed. Over time they overpowered the local Celts or Britons. They were followed by farmers and people who wanted to settle in the area known as England today. The language of the Celts survived in Cornwall, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. It is likely that some of the Celtic language was incorporated into the developing English language.

The differing dialects of the Germanic tribes took time to assimilate into one language. The influence of the Danes also has to be taken into account

 English Spelling

English spelling can be confusing due to the influence of many languages in its development.

English has 26 letters to spell 44 sounds. The ideal for spelling a language is one letter for each distinct sound.

The first English spelling code appeared in 635 but that disappeared with the Danish invasion in 793.

King Alfred, a scholar, defeated the Danes in 878 and unified England. He had major Christian texts translated from Latin into English. He did this by finding monks and clerics who knew how.

He also translated documents. Spelling at this time was nearly perfect.

King Alfred the Great is regarded as saving the English Language.

Old English spelling was later established by the scholar Alfric.

The Danes invaded again in 1020.

Another great influence on English was Norman French. It was introduced by William the Conqueror in 1066. He demanded that influential people speak it. Peasants, artisans and merchants continued to speak English in the dialect of their region.

Latin was the official language of the courts, chancery and the church.

A few monks in secret kept English writing alive.

It took 200 years for Old English to become more widespread. However, it had changed having absorbed many French words. French spellings were used to spell English vowels.

The English Class system was based on how a person spoke and it remains so today.

Spelling at this time had deteriorated despite efforts of scholars to stop this.

The Black Death which killed up to 50% of the population during the Fourteenth Century helped save English. The farmers and merchants who survived the Black Death became the newly wealthy and used English for commerce. They also insisted that their children be educated in English.

Norman-French also lost its influence being replaced with Parisian French for diplomacy.

The first printing press introduced by William Caxton meant books became more readily available. Derivations of words of Latin, French, German, Greek and Roman languages were recorded by people practising the new science of etymology. Dictionaries appeared.

In 1755 Dr Samuel Johnson recorded and defined 43 000 words spoken by all classes in his 'A Dictionary of the English Language'. This was a remarkable feat of scholarship.  It set the mark for future English dictionaries.

Since Johnson's Dictionary, English has not changed that much.

Today most people in the United States of America, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, some African countries, and India plus the inhabitants of the British Isles speak a form of English that all recognize despite accents and local dialects.

In 1783 Noah Webster in the United Stated wrote the first American dictionary and he is responsible for any differences in American English.

 A Brief History of the English Alphabet

Timeline
1200BC:

North Semitic people (Middle East) had a working alphabet of 22 letters.

1100 BC:

  • The Semitic Alphabet developed into the Phoenician Alphabet. The alphabet invented by a Phoenician was a commercial tool and was first used to record commercial transactions.
    The earliest Greek Alphabet was developed either directly from the Phoenician or from a version of North Semitic almost identical to it.
  • The Etruscans adopted the Western Greek Alphabet.
    5th Century: The Romans adopted writing from both the Etruscans and the Western Greeks.
    The early Roman Alphabet looked like this:

            A B C D E F H I K L M N O P Q R S T V X 

  • The Romans also borrowed letters from the Greek Alphabet.

At its peak, the Roman Alphabet looked like this:

          A B C D E F G H I K L M N O P Q R S T V X Y Z 

Due to the Roman dominance of Europe, the Roman Alphabet became the standard alphabet throughout Western Europe and eventually spread throughout the Western World.

 The Alphabetic Method of Writing

  • An alphabet is a code which is a series of symbols that represents something.
  • Any alphabet is a code for the sounds of a language.
  • The superiority of the alphabetic method of writing over hieroglyphics is its accuracy.
  • All civilized nations in the western world eventually adopted this method of writing.

Features of Alphabetic Writing Systems

  • More accurate recording of spoken language.
  • Less reliance on memory to master.
  • Easy and faster to learn than hieroglyphics.
  • More citizens could learn it with relative ease. Learning to read involved mastering the sound-symbol system.
  • A secular and practical sound system liberated from stifling priestly traditions and superstitions.

 The English Alphabet

The English Alphabet is a series of symbols developed over centuries to represent speech sounds.

It was developed from the Roman Alphabet.

The Anglo-Saxon language was written down using Roman letters due to the Roman invasion of Britain. Over time the letters J, U, and W were introduced to spell the sounds the Roman alphabet didn’t accommodate.

The English Alphabet

 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z 

The English Alphabet has 26 letters. Each letter has a lower and upper case form.  The upper case letters, most of the time, will be larger than the lower case letters.  Upper case letters are used at the beginning of sentences in names and in titles. Punctuation was added over time.

The English Alphabet code is not a perfect code. One letter per sound would be much easier to understand.

We only have 26 letters to spell around 44 sounds. There is an argument amongst linguists as to the exact number of sounds. Most languages have around 44 sounds.

The English Alphabet is the way to record infinite words. It is not possible for the human mind to memorize that many characters or words.

One, two, sometimes three and four letters can stand for the sounds of English within a word. Sometimes the sounds of the language have more than one spelling. This is why English spelling is regarded as challenging.

The Fundamental Principles for Reading the English Alphabet Code

The first fundamental principle a beginning reader and writer needs to understand is that words and syllables (parts of words that contain a vowel sound) are comprised of a sequence of elementary speech sounds. This is called phonological (sound) awareness.

This understanding is essential to learning to read an alphabetic language. It is possible that the majority of people with reading problems have not grasped this idea. It has been my experience that students who struggle to read do not understand the fundamental idea behind the alphabet.

Reading is a whole-brain activity and is an extremely complicated process.

Language underpins reading and writing. A child's spoken vocabulary is basic to reading success. The importance of preparing a child for reading will be outlined later. A fluent reader usually has no idea of the complexity of the reading and writing processes. They take their ability for granted. The skills are developed over years of formal schooling.  Often we need to be reminded that reading is a complex process involving the co-ordination of a number of sub-skills.  This needs to be kept in mind by those who are guiding young children in their learning.

Reading is an incredible process and so many do not seem to understand or value this.

THE SUB-SKILLS of READING THAT MUST BE UNDERSTOOD. THEY ARE INTEGRATED.

  • Our brain has to recognize vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines plus curves. Letters are comprised of these.
  • Our brain then has to recognize these shapes as letters. It must group these features into patterns.
  • Our brain must connect printed symbols with the speech sounds they represent.
  • Our brain must differentiate the position of letters in print for quick recognition
  • Our brain must build a mental dictionary (lexicon) for storing the meaning of words
  • Our brain must process word order in sentences and understand and apply the rules of capitalization, punctuation and grammar.
  • Our brain must be able to use five mental actions called the semantic process to process information in a narrative (story) and informative passages, such as plots, content knowledge and more.

                            The Language Sounds

Upper Case or Capital Letters

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q S T U V W X Y Z

Lower Case Letters

 a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

The Vowel Letters are

 a e i o u and sometimes y and r

 English like other languages has two groups of sounds.

 Voice sounds can be voiced or unvoiced (whispered).

 Vowel Sounds

 Vowel sounds are voiced causing vocal cords to vibrate and the sound passes freely through the mouth without obstruction.

The schwa sound is the /uh/ sound.

Say the word – about. The vowel letter ‘a’ spells the SCHWA SOUND.

The schwa sound is a weak unstressed sound found in many English words of 2 syllables or more. Its use varies between dialects. For example, Australians use the schwa sound differently from English. Accents are determined by how the schwa sound is used.

In the following words, the schwa sound is highlighted. Note the use of the vowel letters.

again     problem   president   bottom  album   syringe

 Consonant Sounds

 Consonant sounds are made by touching various mouth parts together. Some consonants are also voiced using the vocal cords and some are not. Consonant and vowel sounds are combined in syllables to form one or more syllable words. Consonants are hard to separate from vowels when speaking. Most English words are 2 or more syllables long.

The Reading Wars

In 1955, a book entitled "Why Johnny Can’t Read (and what you can do about it)” was published in the USA.  The book was a best seller and caused a lot of controversies.

The author, Rudolf Flesch, wrote the book for the millions of parents whose children were being, according to his research, handicapped by the teaching methods of the day.

Flesch explained how he came to write the book and the research he did before publishing it.

The book contains lessons on phonics and is still available today. It is marketed as the classic book on phonics and endorsed by Readers Digest and the method recommended by the US Department of Education.

The Chart Below is a summary of the exercises Flesch presents in his book.

LESSON 1       Sounds of short Vowel  a

Consonants a b d f g h j l m n p r s t v w y z

LESSON 2              Short Vowel                    e
LESSON 3              Short Vowel                    i
LESSON 4              Short Vowel                    o
LESSON 5              Short Vowel                    u
LESSON 6                                                   c   k
LESSON 7                   ck
LESSON 8         Blends  ct, ft, lb, lk, lm, lp, nd, nt, pt, sk, sp, st 
LESSON 9         Blends  bs  cks  ds  ffs  gs  lls  ms  ns  ps ts  cts  fts lbs
LESSON 10        Blends  lks   lms  lps  lts  mps  nds  nts  pts  sks  sps sts
LESSON 11        Blends  ng  nk  sh  x  ngs  nks
LESSON 12        Blends  bl cl fl gl pl sc sk sl s msn sp st sw tw spl
LESSON 13        Blends  br cr dr fr gr pr scr spr str shr tr
LESSON 14        qu  th wh  squ  thr
LESSON 15        ch tch
LESSON 16        ee   see     ea  meal    e  he
LESSON 17       oo   moon      oo  book
LESSON 18       ar car          a  pa  ma
LESSON 19       or sort
LESSON 20       er    ir    ur
LESSON 21       oi  oy
LESSON 22      ou  house   ow  cow
LESSON 23      au  aw  all alt  alk
LESSON 24      ai  ay  air
LESSON 25      ie  pie   y  by  ye  rye  ind  mind  ild wild
LESSON 26      oa oe old olt oll ow-low  o-so

We know a lot more about how reading and writing is mastered today.

Because the activities are so important for people in modern societies enormous sums of money has been spent on scientific research.

Flesch was a forerunner in speaking about how to master the English Alphabetic Writing system. He was aware that reading is much more than decoding words but without this ability, one cannot read.

It has been my experience over the years that if a poor reader cannot decode (sound out) the words he is reading very little progress is made.

If a reader cannot read fluently they will not develop the comprehension skills that enable them to process information from print.

THE VOICE OF AN EXPERT

 

1:   Professor Max Coltheart of Macquarie University NSW Australia 

 

A lot of research continues into reading and writing because they are so important to society. It seems the same arguments turn up again and again.

 

Professor Max Coltheart of Macquarie University NSW Australia has done in-depth research on the reading process.

I am presenting here a summary of his research findings from an interview he did on ABC Radio in Australia.

Dr Coltheart has read 300 and 400-year-old books on how reading was taught that long ago. The earliest book he read was written by a man called Mulcuster in 1590.

There were chapters in this book about the whole word and phonic methods of teaching. The book seemed very modern, even though it was written 400 years ago.

The same argument as today was that the whole word reading didn't teach people to generalise to new words they hadn't seen before.

The problem about teaching phonics seen then as now was that it was meaningless drivel that's hard for children to understand.

(Research today shows this is not so, but phonics has to be taught systematically. This is the author’s comment).

In schools today the whole language approach which teaches reading and writing as natural processes like learning to speak and understand speech is the philosophy followed.

The whole language approach is different from the whole word method. It is assumed that just as most children learn to speak naturally with little trouble, they'll pick up reading and spelling too quite naturally, without systematic instruction because it's just part of language. There's a lot of hostility to breaking language up into whole words or into letter-sound relationships because that's seen as artificial and an impediment to the natural acquisition of reading and writing.

The truth is, spoken language is natural and biologically easily acquired, but written language isn't. Reading and writing are completely artificial, unnatural processes that only a minority of the human race today acquire.

There are many cultures where there's no reading and writing because there's no writing system.

A child of eight knows thousand of words and has a sight vocabulary 100 to 200 words. So what is absolutely critical in learning to read is to be able to sound out words that you are looking at and never seen before.

Children who are not taught to sound out words are missing a fundamental reading strategy.

A fluent reader does not sound out all the time. What eventually happens for the reader who can sound out words is that a sight vocabulary is built up where many words are recognized in print on sight.

Professor Coltheart states that whole word recognition and letter-sound knowledge are both essentials for normal learning to read.

Around the middle 1960's it was recognized how important it is for young children to understand that words can be broken up into individual sounds.

If that is not known a person will not relate letters to individual sounds. Researchers in kindergartens noticed that some children could not break simple words such as c-a-t into single sounds.

They were also unable to play the game 'I Spy' (I Spy something beginning with C or any letter of the alphabet).

Two years later these children had reading problems. In the first couple of years of learning to read the focus is on building up a very small stable sight vocabulary.

These children didn't have problems in the first two years of learning to read but it was around 7 when they started to fall behind. It is at that time that using sounding out to try and expand vocabulary escalates.

Research indicates that there is a genetic contribution to the problem some children have with recognizing phonemes (sounds). This does not mean they will remain non-readers, but they will need help.

Professor Coltheart emphasises that to become a fluent reader the two skills that are the building blocks of reading are:

  1. Knowing about letters and sounds and sounding out.
  2. Ability to build up a sight vocabulary

 This is an analytical way of looking at learning to read

Learning to read is acquiring a set of cognitive (mental) skills.

It can be boring at times and hard work and many children refuse to do the groundwork. Most people need systematic training as early as possible.

I will let Max Coltheart speak:

"… you can teach children to break "cat" up into three sounds in kindergarten, and that's going to help them learn to read."

" there's certainly a two-way street between learning to read and knowing about the structure of language."

"(reading) isn't a biological skill. We don't need practise to learn to understand speech or to learn to walk, or anything biological like that. But we do need practice in reading because it's an artificial skill, no more natural than learning to play chess or learning to play golf. "

"But there's not a critical period for learning to read because it's not a biological phenomenon. And so whether a person is six or sixty, you can diagnose the kind of reading problem and the same kind of treatment method is appropriate whether they be six or sixty."

"Of course the problem with referring to a child as having a learning difficulty suggests that they're having difficulty learning anything, but in fact, it's just reading they're having difficulty with. This doesn't mean the child's problem is anything to do with brain damage, that's certainly not true. What it means is that there's a certain structure that the reading system needs to have …………………………….. in the case of children, they have trouble learning particular components of that structure. "

As I have emphasized in this book. If you or a child you know has a reading problem first check whether two fundamental skills are in place:

  1. Knowing about letters and sounds and sounding out.
  2. Ability to build up a sight vocabulary

The Facts so Far

  • Language is a human instinct and present in all societies.
  • Written language is not an instinct. Writing systems have been invented by a few complex civilizations. They began simply and grew more complex over a long time. They are not perfect.
  • Writing systems are based on the syllable structure of the language for which they were written.
  • Understanding how an Alphabetic Writing system works involves training in hearing the sounds (phonemes) of the language and decoding the written words into recognizable spoken words.
  • It is the sounds of a language that the letters represent. Writing systems are codes for spoken language.
  • Reading and writing are skilled behaviours and need teaching from the simple to the complex. All skilled learning builds piece by piece through practise until the skills are integrated.
  • The complexity of the English Alphabetic Code is a major cause of reading failure. It is one of the most complex.
  • There are 26 letters in English to represent 43 sounds. In a perfect system, each of the 43 sounds would have one symbol (letter) to represent it. It also has many alternative spellings for some of the sounds.
  • Teaching the sounds of English does not mean there is only one way to pronounce these sounds.
  • English spelling evolved over 1500 years.
  • English has over 55 000  phonetically legitimate syllables

Learning to Read is an Ongoing Journey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Appreciation of the Written Word

Before children learn to read they must feel that reading is something they would like to do. They must develop an appreciation of the pleasures of written language and of the many ways language is useful. Parents who read to their children from their earliest days prepare them for an easy transition to becoming readers themselves.

  • Awareness of Printed Language

We are surrounded by print. Point it out in newspapers, mail, billboards, signs and labels print. Show how it works. Show children how to handle a book, which way to turn the pages, and that the printed words, not the pictures, tell the story. Children should be taught that words have many different and valuable purposes.

  • Know the Alphabet
  • Children love to sing the alphabet song.  Comfortable and early familiarity with letters is critical for learning to read. Teach the names of letters and how to recognize and form them.
  • Understand the Relation of Letters and Words

Children need to learn that printed words are made up of ordered strings of letters and are read from left to right. Help them understand that when the combination or order of letters is changed, the word that is spelled also changes.

  • Understand That Language is made of Words, Syllables, and Phonemes

The ability to think about words as a sequence of phonemes (sounds) is a foundation skill in beginning reading. Point out that sentences are made up of strings of separate words. Make sure they hear and create lots of rhymes. Play with the sounds of language until they can pull words apart into syllables and pull syllables into individual phonemes (sounds).

  • About Phonemes

A phoneme is the smallest functional unit of speech. For example, the word "mat" has 3 sounds or phonemes   /m/-/a/-/t/   Make sure you understand how the language works and keep this instruction simple. Point out that letters often stand for more than one phoneme.

Fluent readers learn to recognize these discrete sounds of spoken words quickly, accurately, and automatically. Phonemic awareness is the foundation on which all other reading skills are built.

  • Learn Letter Sounds

When familiarity with letters and an awareness of the sounds of phonemes is established the next step is to learn about letter-sound correspondence. The most important goal at this first stage is to understand that the logic of the alphabetic writing system is built on these correspondences.

  • Sound Out New Words

Once specific letter-sound correspondences are known the next step is to sound out new words in reading and writing. Sounding out unfamiliar words contributes strongly to reading growth for all readers. Sounding out new words is a strategy for unlocking pronunciations of words never seen before and can make what they are reading understandable.

  • Identify Words in Print Accurately and Easily

The ability to read with fluency and comprehension depends on recognizing most words almost instantly and effortlessly. Once the framework for a new word or spelling has been laid, through sounding and blending, the key to recognizing it quickly and easily is practice. The most useful practice is reading and rereading meaningful text made up of words that can easily be sounded out. For beginners, such reading helps most if it is relatively easy. As a rule of thumb, no more than one in 20 words should cause trouble for a reader. If there is more move to a simpler text.

  • Know Spelling Patterns

Once a reader is capable of sounding out words in reading and spelling, the next step is to notice the similarities in their spellings. Noticing spelling patterns across words speeds up progress in reading and writing. Weak knowledge of spelling is an impediment to mature readers.

  • Reading Involves mastering and integrating a number of sub-skills

They are print awareness, sounds of speech, phonemic (sound) awareness, phonics (matching letters and sounds) vocabulary, writing and spelling and text comprehension (getting the author's message)

  • Learn to Read Reflectively

Although the ability to sound out words is essential for learning to read, IT IS NOT ENOUGH. Written language is more than speech written down. Written language introduces new vocabulary, more language patterns than in everyday speech, presents new thoughts and new ways of thinking. An important part of reading texts is to get into the habit of reflecting on them. Even a simple text is worthy of comment. This reflective process needs to begin when reading to young children, so the habit is established.

There are 3 stumbling blocks that are most likely to throw a potential reader off course on the journey to skilled reading.

Stumbling Blocks

  1. Failure to understand the Alphabetic Principle. That is the letters in written words represent the sounds we speak.
  2. Failure to acquire the strategies to get meaning from text
  3. Lack of Fluency

THESE CAN BE OVERCOME

Phonics based on phonetics is about the relationship between letters and sounds. It is the key to unlocking words in the English Language.

IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO MEMORISE ALL WORDS

Modern scientific reading research overwhelmingly proves the superiority of systematic phonics instruction for beginning readers and for the first three or so years of formal schooling.

Whole word and phonic instruction if not done carefully and systematically causes confusion and maybe the reason for dyslexia in many students.

I have tutored several students who were having difficulty reading because they had memorized too many words by sight. They experienced discomfit when phonics was introduced.

Many teachers are not taught all the phonics principles and rules needed to teach students to read. I certainly wasn't. It took me a long time to figure it out.

Teaching a student to read with phonics is simple if you are taught all the rules. Trying to teach reading without the knowledge of these rules is like teaching basic mathematics without knowing the rules for borrowing and carrying.

No matter how we look at it effort is needed to learn to read. It involves practice. Learning to read is a challenge for almost 40 per cent of children. This doesn't mean they cannot be taught.

The good news is that with early help, most reading problems can be prevented. The bad news is that most parents who notice their child having trouble wait a year or more before getting help. The older a person is, the more difficult it is to teach him or her to read usually due to emotional blocks.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is reading?

Reading is a complex process involving word recognition, comprehension, fluency, and motivation. Reading and writing abilities continue to develop throughout life. The years from birth to eight are the most important in literacy development.

Do most children learn to read easily?

Only 5% of children learn to read effortlessly.

20% - 30% of children learn to read relatively easily when formally instructed.

60% of children find learning to read challenging.

What can parents and caregivers do to ensure a child learns to read?

For a child to become a good reader, it takes a partnership that begins at home and continues at school.  You can prepare your child to read by sharing your time, talking about the world around you, telling and reading stories and asking and answering questions.

What factors hinder reading development?

Not understanding the sounds that make up the language.

Not understanding that letters stand for the sounds in words. (The Alphabetic Principle)

Do not understand what is being read known as weak comprehension skills

No motivation to read.

When there was poor instruction in the early years of schooling.

Can a person be taught to read at any age?

Definitely – It is never too late to learn to read.

What is a learning disorder?

A learning disability is a disorder that affects a person’s ability to either interpret what they see and hear or to link information from different parts of the brain. The most common of which is a difficulty with language and reading. 

What is generally understood about Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability which results in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading, spelling, writing, and pronouncing words.

People with dyslexia have been found to have problems with identifying the separate speech sounds within a word and/or learning how letters represent those sounds.

Dyslexia occurs in people of all backgrounds and intellectual levels.

People who are very bright can be dyslexic. Dyslexia runs in families.

With proper help, many people with dyslexia can learn to read and write well.

What does the future hold for reading instruction?

Scientific research is now providing insights on how to prevent the development of poor reading and all the problems that come with it. Scientifically based reading instruction techniques can be used to improve the brain function of those with reading difficulties enabling them to read better.

What do you do if you suspect your child has a learning disability?

Don’t ignore your concern. Children want to please their parents and teachers and want to learn and succeed. Do not blame the child for their lack of success. Be sure to search for the reason for their difficulties. Begin with the child’s school and seek other professional help until you have an answer and your child is receiving the necessary support.

What programs are available to help my child’s learning?

 Begin by asking for help from your child's school.

Many online programs are now available and interest the modern child.

The National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy in Australia found that early, systematic and explicit teaching of phonics is a necessary part of an integrated approach to the teaching of reading.

In the first three years of school – and beyond if necessary – all children learn best within an integrated approach to reading, which teaches phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency in reading, vocabulary and text comprehension.

Phonics: the relationships between letters and sounds;

Fluency is the ability to read quickly and naturally, recognize words automatically, and group words quickly.

Vocabulary knowledge is remembering new words and what they mean. a

Text comprehension is processing what is being read and developing higher-order thinking skills.

READING RESEARCH AND ITS IMPLICATIONS

We now have access to the findings of neuroscience behind the brain-based implications for teaching.

Reading and writing involve building connections in the brain. New connections are built every time we read and write. This is why reading is such an important life activity. Brain imaging shows the difference between the brains of literate and illiterate people. Reading has a flow-on effect to other areas of life.

Reading circuits are normally formed in the left hemisphere of the brain. Around 95% of humans have left-brain dominance for language. The left brain has different processing centres with different specializations. These centres are sometimes called modules. These modules work together to achieve tasks such as reading, writing and spelling.

The right hemisphere of the brain is dominant for writing.

The brain hemispheres are linked by the corpus callosum (thick bundles of nerves).

 READING IS A WHOLE BRAIN ACTIVITY

The most effective way to teach reading is by multi-sensory scaffolding.

This approach provides impartial clues to the subconscious of the learner. The learning needs of individual learners are catered for with this approach.

Kinesthetic, auditory and visual approaches build reading circuits. Once the correct circuits are in place the learner is prepared for individual learning and developing higher-order thinking and comprehension skills.

We do not have to argue about how to teach reading anymore. Neuroscience has shown us how.

You can help your child to build reading circuits at their own pace now.

For a no-obligation discussion on how you can help your child contact me here.