The Reading Brain is Taught

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In their article ‘The Reading Brain is Taught, Not Born” Gotlieb and colleagues (2022) provide a historical lens on how cognitive neuroscience research can be used to teach, connect and strengthen the reading circuit.

As discussed in this article, despite neuroscience research into reading dating back more than 30 years, many educator have not and are still not being given sufficient understanding of the reading process and the translation of this research into practice to be able to effectively teach all children to read, including those who struggle. This post provides an overview of the key concepts discussed in Gotlieb et al.’s article.

Key contributions of Cognitive Neuroscience to the Science of Reading

  • There is evidence that early reading intervention is more effective when it includes phonic instruction AND multiple components of the reading circuit including prosody, pragmatics, orthography, semantics, syntax, morphology and background knowledge.
  • Learning to read is most effective when young readers are provided with explicit, systematic, phonic-forward, language-based, multicomponent instruction.
  • Reading-relevant neural changes begin before children attend school and continue past secondary education. Consequently, teacher in all grades, across all subjects need a knowledge of how they can help develop reading competency in their students.
  • Reading development occurs in the home and the community, as well as in schools.
  • The reading circuit is impacted by biology and environment, as highlighted by readers with dyslexia.
  • Early intervention works best for children with dyslexia which means that children who are having difficulty learning to read should be provided support before dyslexia is even diagnosed.
  • There are social and emotional ramifications associated with children and adolescents who have learning difficulties. Many people with dyslexia are often subjected to unfair prejudices regarding their intelligence and work ethics which have ongoing negative repercussions.

Future Directions

  • Greater consistent use of evidence-based, programs that use explicit, systematic instructions of not only the encoding/decoding connection, but the multiple aspects of word and world knowledge.
  • Multi-component reading instruction that integrates social-emotional engagement and support.
  • Integration of insights from cognitive neuroscience, educators, clinicians and policymakers leading to increasingly effective reading instruction that meets the needs of all readers.

Gotlieb, R., Rhinehart, L., & Wolf, M. (2022), The ‘reading brain’ is taught, not born: Evidence from the evolving neuroscience of reading for teachers and society. The Reading League Journal, 3 (3), 11-17.