Why Early Instruction Is So Important

Is there really anything new to say on the subject of reading and reading difficulties?  Indeed, there is!  Recent advances in medical imaging technology have made it possible for the first time to look at the brains of both skilled and dysfunctional readers while they are engaged in the act of reading and chart the strikingly different ways in which their brains are working.

CBR001036The most dramatic new discovery is that if dyslexic readers are provided intensive special tutoring and improve their reading skills, one can literally see that the brain changes its pattern of activity to produce a more efficient way of reading. These new insights, based not on theories but on the actual brains of actual readers have led to new ways of thinking about how to introduce children to the alphabet and to reading, and how to prevent reading difficulties.

Reading is a new human skill. Humans have been using some form of language in verbal communication for about two million years, but reading and writing have only been around for a few thousand.  We don’t know what early language sounded like but whatever its form, it’s pretty clear that language, and the capacity of the human brain to organize and express it, changed and evolved over the eons to accommodate more and more complex conversations.  Mothers found ways to tell their children how to keep out of trouble, and fathers found ways to brag about the hunt as the family gathered around the stew pot.

So it’s not surprising that our children, the inheritors of that ancient legacy, are able by the age of three to ask for orange juice, and tell us why they don’t want to go to grandma’s house today.  Their brains have pre-developed locations of cells, sophisticated programs and elaborate connections to deal with the complexities of speaking. Their brains start out with an efficient neural organization for speech, but not for reading.  It is the instruction children receive that will determine how these pathways are laid down.

In future posts to this blog, I will try to report more on how these important connections get made. Are there any specific topics that you wish to hear me discuss in a blog post? Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments.

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2 Responses to “ Why Early Instruction Is So Important ”

  1. Lisa Rigby says:

    My son had brain surgery at the age of four to remove a cancerous tumor. 6 years later we have discovered that he is severely dyslexic. We have used your read, write and type program which we both loved, but do you have any other suggestions. He is in 5th grade reading at barely a 2nd grade level. His brain just doesn’t process correctly, what can I do?

  2. Marcela says:

    I would like to if you know any experience in cooperative learning to learn reading. I am from Chile and I work as pre-school teacher.

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