On October 5, I will be presenting a seminar on the topic of the Reading Brain: K-4. The seminar will be held at the TES library beginning at 7:00 p.m. With that said, I would like to make some introductory comments in reference to the fact that reading is an unnatural process to the human brain.
Hard Wired for Speech but Not for Reading
The hard wiring of the human brain refers to how the brain cells, or neurons, and the infinite connections, or synapses, are created and organized prior to and at birth. The truth of the matter is this: Through genetics and evolution, we are hard-wired for speech but not for reading and breaking the written code. In fact, reading is an unnatural process for the human brain.
But we are evolving. It has been recently documented that the human brain is beginning to increase in size, especially in the prefrontal cortex. The reorganization taking place in the prefrontal cortex seems to reflect society’s increasing dependence on written symbols, even though this reorganization, surprisingly, began thousands of years ago.
So the good news is that the brain’s ability to handle the skill of reading is making some progress. The bad news is that it began thousands of years ago, and according to the No Child Left Behind mandate, all children will be proficient in reading by 2014. Perhaps we need to speed up the evolutionary process!
The Need for More Knowledge
Reading instruction, and education as a whole, needs to keep up a better pace with the advances in research on how the brain learns best. For many years we had to depend mostly on our observations, documenting those behaviors that made some students good at comprehending written material and turning those observations into strategies that we tried to provide for all students. But today, neurologists know much more about what’s going on inside of the brain; we no longer have to rely only on what we observe.
Technology, in the form of Magnetic Resonance Imagining, or MRI, is one way we can have a look inside. Through MRI, neurologists not only can take a picture of the structures of the brain, but also observe the cerebral metabolism, or neural activity.
As teachers, we can and must learn from research on the human brain based on these new technologies, and begin using this information to improve the way we teach reading and help prevent, identify, and ultimately eliminate reading problems. Some of our teachers have already participated in a workshop session that explained a few of the brain’s functions and how they are connected to the reading process. We will continue to stay abreast of these issues.
In light of the points that I have made, you may certainly agree that there needs to be a great deal of emphasis on learning how to read in the elementary grades and reading to learn throughout the grade levels. Reading is difficult for the human brain and the ability to read is not directly correlated to intelligence per se. There are multiple factors to consider.
On October 5th, I plan to share some of the brain compatible ideas and strategies that can serve to facilitate a child’s ability to learn to read and enhance comprehension. Hope to see you there or at another event in the near future!