How the Brain Learns to Read
While history has recorded plenty of opinions about how we learn to read, cognitive neuroscience has provided verifiable evidence of many of the processes involved in reading over the past 40 years of research (Dehaene 2008). This knowledge, gained from many hundreds of scientific studies, has demonstrated how we read and why some children have different capabilities when it comes to reading.
This is of enormous benefit for the teaching of early reading but it is not well recognised by all educators. (There are many reasons for this, which you can explore further here ). The great news is that there is now a growing understanding of the science of reading (SoR) that explains how we learn to read and how we can teach students who don't learn as easily as others.
Dr.Stanislas Dehaene explains (below) how the brain learns to read. He describes how this occurs via two essential mechanisms - recognising letters (and how they combine to form words) AND connecting them to speech sounds (language) and meaning. You will notice that this strongly relates to the Simple View of Reading theorised in 1986 by Gough & Tunmer and which remains today the most accurate and useful theory of how we learn to read.
For teachers, the importance of understanding how the brain learns to read and the skills that enable early reading can't be underestimated. These two understandings help us to see why some students don't learn to read well and what they need in order to improve. This new understanding of reading also demonstrates that we can do better for so many children who find reading difficult. The only question remains, are you willing to learn to help more children learn to read?