Hi, I am Jeannine Herron, a research neuropsychologist living in San Rafael, California. I have been the principal investigator on four reading research studies funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and I have developed a line of educational software that helps children ages 6-9 learn how to read, write and type.
Through this blog I hope to share my passion for education and the things I have learned over the years as a researcher, teacher, mother and now, a software developer. My goal is to make reading fun for young learners, and help them develop the habits and skills that will assist them in learning for years to come.
At the SSSR meeting in Boston, I was fascinated to learn about a new study by Linnea Ehri and Nancy Boyer who taught pre-schoolers to look at themselves in a mirror while pronouncing a word, and then play with mouth pictures that represent the articulation of the same sounds. When children associated those mouth pictures with letters and manipulated the letters to represent the sounds in words, they performed better than children who just manipulated the letters without the articulatory component. So instruction that includes teaching children to become aware of how their mouths move to make the sounds of words would help children make the connections between speech and the alphabet code.
It’s always good to see colleagues and friends at these yearly meetings of SSSR. Louisa Moats and I found ourselves commiserating at lunch one day. Louisa has been teaching the importance of a speech-to-print approach for years. She has lectured widely, taught professional development courses, been active on government advisory panels, and has written an excellent book called Speech to Print. (Also, Straight Talk About Reading with Susan Hall, another excellent book). But, as we said over lunch, it’s sometimes discouraging that change happens so slowly. This is what she said in American Educator in 1998:
“One of the most fundamental flaws found in almost all phonics programs is that they teach the code backwards. That is, they go from letter to sound rather than from sound to letter….the print to sound approach leaves gaps, invites confusions, and creates inefficiencies” (Moats, L. Teaching Decoding, American Educator, 42-49)
I’m getting on a plane tomorrow to fly from San Francisco to Boston for a week. I’m attending a conference where I’ll have a chance to talk to many friends and colleagues who have, like me, decided to spend their lives trying to understand why some children have difficulty learning to read and what we might be able to do about it.
It’s the annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading, a gathering of over 300 researchers from around the world who study everything about reading — brain structure and function, related cognitive and behavioral issues, and instruction and intervention techniques. You can find abstracts of the talks on the SSSR web site. I look forward to learning new things to add to the knowledge I have accumulated from my own research over the last 37 years.