The human brain is designed to naturally acquire many skills. As all parents know well, most children easily learn to walk and talk without any special instruction. But what many of us don’t realise is that the human brain was not designed to read.
Stanislas Dehaene, one of the foremost experts involved in research on reading and math in the brain, has noted that in order to read, we have to recruit brain architecture that was designed for other purposes. Fortunately, the language and visual object recognition networks of the brain mature in early pre-school years, and then multitask in a way to reconfigure it for reading.
With an alphabetic language like English, reading requires that we integrate the speech sounds of our language, the phonemes, with the letters, graphemes. This sound-letter correspondence requires the ability to perceive speech sounds quickly and accurately as well as the ability to perceive letters quickly and accurately. It is the latter skill that is contained in the visual word form area of the brain, a region at the base of the occipital lobe in the left hemisphere.
This area possesses highly sophisticated capabilities that are essential for fluent reading. For example, it lights up first when a person is asked to determine whether the words written as “READ” and “read”, are the same words. Although to most readers, that seems like a simple task, uppercase and lowercase letters such as “A” and “a” or “R” and “r” or even “D” and “d” are actually not at all alike in shape or configuration. We have to learn to “see” them as the same letter even though they are very different shapes.
For many with dyslexia, this part of the brain is not responding the way it does in typical readers and shows no specialisation for written words. Moreover, recent research indicates that dyslexics have trouble with both hearing the sounds within words and recognising letters. In other words, not only do children who struggle to read have problems perceiving the sounds within words, they also appear to have trouble recognising letters.
New research points to the importance of reading interventions that improve all components of reading disorders: auditory perception, phonological awareness, language skills and visual letter recognition. It also highlights the importance of interventions that have evidence-based data revealing the underlying brain structural changes that coincide with the intervention components.
Fortunately, such discoveries in brain science are not only helping us understand these important brain regions, they are also providing research to show how specific targeted interventions, like Fast ForWord, not only improve reading skills but activate those very areas that appear essential to successful reading achievement.
Read more about research about Fast For Word and dyslexia here.
Editor’s note: This article is sponsored content by BrainFit Studio Bangkok.