Article Brain & Literacy Part 3

And don’t get upset or worried about having to be a electrician and do some brain re-wiring; the brain re-wires because that’s its job – just as a lung breathes because that’s its job, a brain re-wires because that’s its job.

It does take work to re-wire a brain, but re-wiring isn’t unusual because that’s how we learn everything. Our brains are constantly wiring and re-wiring, making commonly-used wiring stronger, and ‘dissolving’ rarely used wiring.

I’ve heard that re-wiring a brain to learn to read will take about 100 hours of full concentration on material that is properly structured and consistent with the way written English was designed to work. That works out to be about 30 minutes each school day for a year, or one hour every day for 100 days. That time includes time to practice reading, to get up to a reasonable speed – including fluency and comprehension.

If you use crappy material, it takes longer to learn to read. If it’s really crappy material or badly taught, you could be learning to read for a lifetime – and still not learn to read.

It usually takes students using my materials about 25 hours to complete the learn to read course, and up to another 25 hours of working on the Reader in order to become fluent, independent readers. That’s half the estimated time! Mind you, I’m not teaching handwriting and spelling as well.

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BRAIN  RE-WIRING AND LITERACY

Sometimes, a particular student has so much trouble learning to read that you might think the wiring between the different parts of the brain mustn’t be working properly. And you might be right.

This problem might have been caused by:

  • an accident; or
  • because the brain wiring might be weak; or
  • the brain wiring might be ‘scrambled’ because the student
    • was taught information that was incorrect; or
    • was taught material that didn’t make sense; or
    • was taught to do something several different ways; or
    • perhaps that person just has a different way of looking at things.

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THERE ARE DYSLEXICS, AND THEN THERE ARE DYSLEXICS

Almost invariably, people with literacy problems are labelled dyslexic, and once this happens they are often pushed aside – because it’s assumed they won’t be able to learn to read. But that is very far from the truth.

A person who isn’t able to read properly because their brain suffered a trauma (which may have happened before birth or in an accident) needs to be assessed, assisted and treated. These people can often be helped by full phonics-based training.

Some of them need more intensive training by a teacher with specialist training; the Orton-Gillingham type training and the Lindamood training are the best I have come across. On the Resources page, I have included  links to online Learn To Read Courses, some of which teach with the necessary level of intensity to re-wire dyslexic brains with serious problems.

Students who have scrambled or weak brain wiring, need to be re-taught so their brains re-wire. These students are the easiest to teach, because their literacy problem is a wiring problem and teaching reading in a way that wires the brain properly is ideal for them. Parents are often able to do this training themselves, or they can use the services of a tutor, or use one of the online courses.

And now we come to the people who look at things differently..
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THE REAL DYSLEXICS

When I call these people the REAL dyslexics, I’m not implying that the earlier types of dyslexics I’ve listed don’t have real problems. I’m meaning that their problems are wiring-based. These people have usually become dyslexic because they’ve been badly taught or their wiring was scrambled. Wiring can be re-done; it takes time and effort, but it works.

But this other type of dyslexics is facing a different problem altogether. These are the people who think differently: Please Note – this is not a defect!

These people often think in pictures, rather than in words. They are the true dyslexics.
They have trouble reading because thinking in pictures doesn’t work when it comes to reading, because that isn’t how it was designed to work.

If you’re wanting to teach someone who thinks in pictures, or who sees things very differently, someone who looks at reading and writing in a way that is inconsistent with the way that written English works, you’re going to have to explain to them:

“Look, the way you’re thinking about reading isn’t the way it actually works. You need to think about it the way it’s going to be taught [in any full phonics course]. You can keep doing art, inventing, etc., the way you’ve always done it, it’s just reading and spelling you need to think about this way.”

There’s nothing wrong with these people; the problem is that no-one has explained to them that reading and spelling don’t work the same way as everything else. Once they know that, they switch over to thinking about reading and spelling in a more ‘left-brain”, and keep their “right-brain” thinking for everything else.

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SO WHY ARE WE TAKING YEARS TO TEACH READING?

These days, it’s taking years to teach a child to read because most courses for young children are entertainment-based – so a huge amount of time is wasted. And, in most cases, students are still not supplied with the information they need.

Why are we wasting so much time? I think it’s because literate adults assume that ‘plain vanilla’ courses that stick to the essentials (instead of entertaining students), are boring. Well, they may be boring to the literate adults, but they can already read!

Students can think of lots of better things to do than spend years learning something that can be learned in a few months – so speed of learning is important to them.

Plain vanilla courses aren’t boring to the people who are learning to read – because when they’re doing a course that sticks to the essentials, students progress rapidly. And that’s not boring!

Many literate people assume that teaching someone to read is just a matter of giving them the right information. But they’re wrong; remember how the brain has to practice new information, and has to have time to wire it in? Only when a brain has got the wiring totally organised and strong does it have enough energy left to concentrate on understanding what it’s actually reading. So practice is important..

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ENGLISH MAKES SENSE – MOST OF THE TIME

Once a student understands how written English works (the first 2 videos in the Phonemic Awareness Course Free Trial Package explain this). And once students know the sounds in English (taught in the Phonemic Awareness Course) and the sound/letter combinations (these are taught in any full phonics course) – he or she will know English makes sense most of the time.

This is the core information everyone needs to know in order to be able to read English.

This knowledge gives students the confidence to tackle unknown words, and equips them to become independent readers and work out a lot of words for themselves! Things really start speeding up then, because they realise they don’t need to be taught every word – they only need help with the weird ones!

In spite of what’s been assumed for years, girls are just as commonly affected by reading difficulties as boys. Full phonics courses are good for both boys and girls because they teach the brain to work on literacy using the oral language parts of the analytical left brain. So students develop their analytical and critical thinking abilities. This means that for many students learning to read using a well-structured course helps them think their way through mathematics as well – without their having to do any extra maths work!.

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PEOPLE SAY SOME DYSLEXICS GROW OUT OF DYSLEXIA

Most people with dyslexia are adults who have had the problem since they were children. I’ve heard that many dyslexics ‘grow out of’ dyslexia, and manage to improve their literacy as they get older.

While I’d agree that many dyslexic people manage to improve their literacy as they get older, I disagree that it’s because they’ve ‘grown out of’ dyslexia. What’s happening when dyslexic adults learn to read is that they’ve finally been taught using full phonics courses – so at last they’ve been provided with information that makes sense – no wonder they finally learn to read!

If they’d been taught using that type of course in the first place, it’s unlikely they would have had a problem in the first place!

To read further articles in this series, or another series, go to the Articles page.