The brain and reading
Sebastian Wren, Ph.D. ~ © 2003, BalancedReading.com
There are an astonishing
number of people promoting "brain-based" reading programs these days.
It is often vigorously argued that teachers need to base their instruction
on what we know about how the brain works. That sounds compelling, except
for two things -- first, we actually don't know that much about how the brain
works, and second, it is not clear, even if we did fully understand how the
brain works, how that information would be very useful to a 1st grade teacher.
Anybody with a real background
in neuroscience can tell you that most of the people who are promoting their
"brain-based" reading programs really do not know that much about neuroscience.
Furthermore, they can not clearly describe a clear connection between
the reading programs they are trying to sell and their (typically erroneous)
claims about how the brain works.
As a field, we are not completely
ignorant about what is happening in the brain when we read (check out "Overcoming
Dyslexia"), but what we know about the workings of the brain during reading
is not very detailed. We can describe in general terms how the information
is broken apart and different parts of the brain deal with different parts
of the information, but that's about it. The
human brain is incredibly uncharted territory. It really is a huge
mystery. We are learning a lot about how the brain works and how it
changes as we learn new information, but we still don't know all that much.
And we certainly don't know enough about the brain to "base" reading programs
on that knowledge.
Anyway, here is a brief
paper on the topic if you are interested in reading an overview, but
as stated earlier, it is hard to see how understanding what is happening
to the neurons in the brain will really help teachers to do their jobs better.
However, for those who are really interested in
learning more about the brain and neuroscience (which in itself is really
quite interesting), let us refer you to a truly excellent and fun website
-- www.brainconnection.com. They have all kinds of interesting information about the
brain that is presented very nicely.