Put Your Reading Where Your Mouth Is!

A number of new discoveries can now shed light on what happens in the brain as children learn to read, and how the kind of instruction children receive can set the course for their reading future.

One remarkable discovery gives us a new understanding of how skilled readers can look at thousands of words and instantly recognize their meaning—an unfamiliar experience for an alarming number of American youngsters.

How do they do it? According to Linnea Ehri, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, the sight of a word triggers its pronunciation, and it is this pronunciation that has been stored in memory for convenient access along with the meaning of the word. Our lips may not be moving when we read, but our brains are “talking”.

Ehri ‘s studies show that trying to recognize thousands of words from their visual appearance alone (pattern recognition) is almost impossible.  It is the “speech memory” that is the key.  How do you remember a new telephone number as you walk to the phone?  You say it to yourself. How do you decode and store a new word that you encounter as you’re reading Anna Karenina or Harry Potter?  You “sound-it-out” and pronounce it.

……..I will continue to post blogs about the relationship between speech and reading.


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