Fifth grade teacher Julie Fine recently had the opportunity to share a presentation titled "The Neuroscience of Reading" at the weekly Rome Rotary Club meeting. Below is an article that appeared in "Windmill," the weekly newsletter of the organization.
Julie Fine, a teacher at Darlington School, presented last week’s (Rome Rotary) program titled, “The Neuroscience of Reading.” Fine teaches the fifth grade and believes that students learn at all levels and that an educator’s goal is to move them forward.
"Reading is a cultural invention," Mrs. Fine explained. "It is learned through the spoken word, listening, and repetition." She believes that students who find reading difficult can still learn through formal and explicit instructions.
The front left side of the brain is used when learning to read. As skills develop over time, the brain moves toward the left back side which is used to maintain the skills. Fine showed a short video of her five year old daughter using sounds and sight words as a demonstration of how children learn. Sight words, often also called high frequency sight words, are commonly used words that young children are encouraged to memorize as a whole by sight, so that they can automatically recognize these words in print without having to use any strategies to decode.
How do we know how the brain works while learning to read? In the past, post mortem tests were conducted but now functional MRIs can look at the brain in real-time allowing both advanced and struggling readers to be evaluated and compared.
During the question and answer segment of the meeting, Mrs. Fine explained that children with dyslexia are usually not diagnosed until around the third or fourth grade. Because they are usually incredibly intelligent, their brains have found alternative “routes” of processing and learning which has enabled them to stay caught up until that point. They become emotionally frustrated as they mature and require more personal evaluation to “remediate” or “reteach” in specific areas.
Mrs. Fine stated that comprehension is the biggest hurdle that we have to learn to overcome. Society is becoming accustomed to the “quick” and the “just give me the headline” mentally toward reading. They are loosing the ability to read deeply and to search for answers to meaningful problems. Ways to avoid comprehension problems is to take time to read thoroughly, seek deeper answers, converse, and challenge yourself.
Mrs. Fine concluded by stating, “Reading is the focus of early education and becomes the medium of formal education.”