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Running head: THE BRAIN AND

The Brain and Learning to Read


Tabatha Dahlstedt
EDU 417 Cognitive Studies Capstone
Dr. Maureen Lienau
June 22, 2015

THE BRAIN AND LEARNING TO READ

The Brain and Learning to Read


There has been much research done on how the brain learns to read especially in
neuroscience over the past few decades. With it, there have been trials and errors some even
built on myth that has been tried with the teaching of reading with children such as wholeword learning to read. Before that it was even mentioned and thought that reading occurred
only in the left hemisphere of the brain, while today it is known that is not the case and that both
the right and left hemisphere is involved. According to Fischer, research that analyzes speech
and reading skills into their components process also show that reading is not simply a left
hemisphere task, as our folk theory suggests (2008, pg. 59). Language and reading processing
happens in both the right and left hemisphere. This paper will discuss the brain structures and
neural pathways involved in reading as well as why children may fail to read due to a delay in
their auditory processing.
Dr. James Booth stated in a lecture he gave on How Does the Brain Learn to Read that
no matter the culture the reading process is the same it relies on the same mechanisms (2012).
No matter the culture or environment in which the child grows up in the process of learning to
read seems to be the same, the only difference is the speed in which a child learns to read. A
child with a wider vocabulary will learn to read much faster than a child with a very limited
vocabulary. Learning to read is quite the process for the brain it takes several areas of the brain
to accomplish this goal and Dr. Booth says it may even be better for a child to learn to read when
he or she is around ages six or even seven rather than in kindergarten. The most important part
to learn when the child is in their younger years is the letters and the sounds associated with
letters first before they learn to read. With a good understanding of the letters and the sounds,
the child can learn to read much more efficiently.

THE BRAIN AND LEARNING TO READ

The process of learning to read all starts with the recognition of letters or their shape
which all starts in the visual cortex. Once this skill is mastered, the child can bring together the
letter and the sound that it makes which is stored in the echoic memory or the auditory cortex.
Then the child can connect the sound and letters to their spoken language. The areas of the brain
responsible for speech and language are the visual cortex, the auditory cortex, Werwickes area,
and Brocas area (Mandal, 2013). The visual cortex is where the letter recognition begins and
the auditory cortex is where the connection of the letter and the sound that it makes begins.
Because of this, reason connections are made and new synapsis are produced. The Wernickes
area is responsible for determining how words and syllables are pronounced. The Brocas area is
responsible for the production of speech. As a child learns to read the anatomy of his or her
brain changes, his or her words become important and replace with their memory of faces or face
recognition. The recognition of the faces moves to the right hemisphere when a child learns to
read and is replaced by the new knowledge of words.
It is essential to teach letters and the sounds that those letters make first before a child is
taught to put those letters together and read. This is because this is how the brain processes the
information and learns to read. Reading requires slow, serial, letter-by letter decoding (Booth,
2012). Even into adulthood one still decodes words by their letters although we read as though
we just read the word without sounding out the letters, it processes the letters all at once in
parallel. Dr. Booth suggests that teaching reading this way is the fastest way to help a child
acquire their reading skills and the comprehension of it and that once the concepts are taught this
way the child then can begin to self-teach his or herself.
Paula Tallal and Michael Merzenich discovered from their research that most reading
problems come from an auditory processing delay in the readers brain. Dr. Bellis states that the

THE BRAIN AND LEARNING TO READ


treatment of Auditory processing disorders (APD) needs to be highly individualized and that
there is not one treatment out there that can help all children with APD. However, Tallal and
Merzenich claim to have developed a computer program (game) that seems to help ameliorating
APD and actually helps increase students reading abilities (Wolfe, 2010). Research on this
computer program has found that it helps students rapidly increase their cognitive skills in just
12 weeks of playing the game for30 to 45 minutes a day and the skills learned are maintained
easier as it improves their academic performance. Programs such as these are great for
strengthening the newly developed synapses that a child acquires in the process.
Reading is fundamental for the growth of a child into adulthood. The way in which
reading is taught is highly important to children or any learner of reading as it will affect their
entire life. Teaching the shape of letters first then the sounds helps them build connections
between their synapsis. Then they can learn to blend those sounds and connect them with their
spoken language. Children with a higher vocabulary will catch on faster to the process of
reading, however, the process is the same for all no matter the background or culture.

THE BRAIN AND LEARNING TO READ

References
Bellis, T., J., PhD (n.d.). Understanding auditory processing disorders in children: American
speech-language-hearing association. Retrieved from
http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/Understanding-Auditory-Processing-Disorders-inChildren/
Booth, J. [BarkleyCenter01]. (2012, October 24). Dr. James Booth: How does the brain learn to
read? [Video File]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZBIIQyT6FU
Mandal, A., MD (2013, November 3). Language and the human brain: News Medical. Retrieved
from http://www.news-medical.net/health/Language-and-the-Human-Brain.aspx
Wolfe, P. (2010). Brain matters: Translating research into classroom practice. (2nd ed.).
Alexandria,VA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development