Parents, researchers, and educators have long wondered why
some children fail to learn to read when other children in
the same classroom with the same curriculum have easily learned
Is there something wrong with those that fail to read? Do
they have some sort of disorder? What factors do and do not
play a role in reading failure?
The term is often used by those who believe that poor reading
is due to a neurological disorder. The problem, however, is
that this fails to consider normal variations of mental skills
or abilities. Remember that reading has been invented and
is not an innate, biological entity of just one part of the
brain. In fact, we actually use numerous parts of our brain
Deficiencies in particular mental skills, most
often due to normal variation, not brain damage, are the neurological
basis for a reading problem.
Years of research on the brain have conclusively shown that
those diagnosed as "dyslexic" do not have damage
to any part of the brain.
Numerous other studies have also demonstrated a high correlation
between the ability to read and the ability to manipulate
sounds in words. Although this skill has been called many
different things (auditory processing, phonemic awareness,
phonetic awareness, phonological awareness, or phonological
processing), it can be summarized as the ability to "unglue"
sounds in words, blend sounds to form words, and analyze sounds
In other words, many students with reading problems
struggle to hear, analyze, and separate the individual phonemes
Furthermore, it has been shown that children don't automatically
learn to segment words into sounds simply because they are
exposed to a reading system. In summary, research consistently
shows that phonemic awareness is the major
predictor of reading ability (independent of reading
Other factors that impact learning to read to lesser degrees
include speech problems, attention and visual processing.
Inheritance is also a factor. But poor reading is not inherited.
Reading cannot be coded in genes anymore than other high skills
like typing or playing a piano. What can be inherited is the
tendency to have difficultly blending, segmenting, and analyzing
sounds. But these problems can be corrected.
To correct these problems the student needs to develop the
- hear the individual sounds within words
- blend isolated sounds into words
- analyze and manipulate sounds within words