Brain-based reading instruction

The brain and reading

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 — They have all kinds of interesting information about the brain that is presented very nicely.