The ability to read is not neurologically pre-wired the way spoken language ability is (Pinker, 2007). Unlike oral language, our brains are not pre-wired for reading.
Reading is a complex skill that requires a number of sub-skills to work in a co-ordinated way.
The core reading sub-skill in alphabetic written languages like English is forming connections between speech sounds and printed letters, known more technically as phoneme-grapheme correspondence.
Second order sub-skills include learning and understanding the rules that underpin English spelling conventions, e.g. that “u” always follows “q” in English words, that words in English do not typically end with “v” or an “i”, or that, in words where the letters e, i, or y follow a “c”, c usually make an /s/ (not /k/) sound, e.g. in ceiling, circle or cycle.
Third order sub-skills include “thinking about thinking” (metacognition), predicting text types and other conventions and monitoring comprehension, as well as comprehension strategies, generally.
Dyslexia and other literacy disorders are complicated problems with roots in the basic brain systems that allow us to understand and express language. These disorders can affect not only how a person reads but the ability to spell, retrieve words, to articulate and to remember facts (Shaywitz, 2003).
To manage reading disorders, formal instruction in reading needs to focus on the three types of sub-skills summarised above, including word recognition skills and comprehension skills (Snow et al., 1998).
Thanks to extensive research, we now know what to do to ensure each child or adult becomes a good reader, and to build and reinforce the neural pathways deep within the brain for skilled reading.
For people with – or at risk of – literacy disorders, we recommend the Spalding program, which integrates explicit training on phonological awareness, systematic phonics, high frequency vocabulary, text fluency and comprehension through writing, spelling, reading and the appreciation of good books.
More information about the Spalding program, the research supporting it, and our Spalding services can be found here.
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- The forgotten reading skill: fluency and what it matters
- 6 strategies to improve you child’s reading comprehension and how to put them into practice
- How to help your school-age child learn new words
- Do we spend too much time on rhyming books?
- The Spalding Method
- 15 practical ways to help your son discover a passion for reading
- 5 resources you can use at home to help your child to read
- Are reading comprehension problems caused by oral language deficits?
- Helping older children with their reading comprehension. What should we teach and how?
- Let kids choose their own adventures
Banter Speech & Language is owned and managed by David Kinnane, a Hanen- and LSVT LOUD-certified speech-language pathologist with post-graduate training in the Spalding Method for literacy, the Lidcombe and Camperdown Programs for stuttering, and Voicecraft for voice disorders. David is also a Certified PESL Instructor for accent modification.
David holds a Master of Speech Language Pathology from the University of Sydney, where he was a Dean’s Scholar. David is a Practising Member of Speech Pathology Australia and a Certified Practising Speech Pathologist (CPSP).