Saturday, January 19, 2008

Reading is a Brain Function

Acdicorng to a rcesearh at Cbmraigde Uinsiertvy, it deson't mtaetr waht odrer the lteetrs in a wrod are in, the olny ipmroatnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat lteter be in the rgiht plcae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can slitl raed it wtiuot a porlbem. Tihs is bceasue the mnid deos not raed erevy lteter by isteslf, but the wrod as a wohle, and the barin fgiuers it out aynawy. Cool!

Why does Glenn Doman recommend teaching your baby to read whole words before teaching them the alphabet? Seems a little like putting the horse behind the buggy, doesn't it?

Can you read the paragraph at the top of this article? If you haven't already, look at it carefully. If you're a decent reader, you will be able to read that mess of a paragraph, even though the "words" don't make any sense at all! The letters are jumbled up in a random order, with only the first and last letter being in the correct place, but you are still able to read it because our brains read whole words, not letter by letter. 

This is why we are able to read at hundreds (or even thousands) of words per minute, and why we are able to read so many words that we are unable to spell. 

Reading is a brain function, and one that all humans are born with. 

You do not have to have a knowledge of phonics or even know the alphabet in order to read, just as you do not have to have knowledge of grammar or spelling in order to speak.

Phonics is important. Knowing the alphabet is important. Understanding that words are made up of letters and sounds is an important skill to have. But so is understanding that sentences are made up of nouns, verbs, and prepositions. Yet that never stopped us from teaching children how to speak.

Reading is a brain function, just as is speaking, and children can learn how to read words long before they can understand the technicalities of phonics. Giving them a head start in reading will make phonics come easy (and actually make sense).

"Very young children can and do learn to read words, sentences, and paragraphs in exactly the same way they learn to understand spoken words, sentences, and paragraphs. 
Again the facts are simple - beautiful but simple. We have already stated that the eye sees but does not understand what is seen and that the ear hears but does not understand what is heard. Only the brain understands. 
When the ear apprehends, or picks up, a spoken word or message, this auditory message is broken down into a series of electrochemical impulses and flashed to the unhearing brain, which then reassembles and comprehends in terms of the meaning the word was intended to convey. 
In precisely the same manner it happens that when the eye apprehends a printed word or message, this visual message is broken down into a series of electrochemical impulses and flashed to the unseeing brain to be reassembled and comprehended as reading. 
It is a magical instrument, the brain. 
Both the visual pathway and the auditory pathway travel through the brain and where both messages are interpreted by the same brain process. 
Visual acuity and auditory acuity actually have very little to do with it, unless they are very poor indeed. 
There are many animals that see or hear better than any human being. Nonetheless, no chimpanzee, no matter how acute his vision or hearing, has yet to read the word "freedom" through his eye or understood it through his ear. He hasn't the brain for it." 
Glenn Doman, How to Teach Your Baby to Read

So long have we been programed to believe that reading is, in essence, a study and mastery of phonics rules. That we learn to read by learning the sounds of the letters and then piecing those letters together, sounding them out in our head and then coming to a complete understanding.

But that is not reading at all.

Yes, phonics may be a pathway to reading. And especially in the older child (3 or 4 and up), phonics may help them cross the reading threshold, to understand how words are formed and the rules behind them. 

But the true reading - brain reading - will come after that child has used the rules of phonics as a footstool and his brain has learned the whole words. Then, and only then, will he read truly and efficiently, the same way he speaks truly and efficiently.

And true reading? Well tiny children are experts at that. Just as they can take in and learn spoken words easily and effortlessly, so they can take in and learn whole written words easily and effortlessly. Tiny children generally do not need the footstool of phonics, and are able to learn to read often before they can learn to speak.

The brain is a magical instrument, isn't it?

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