Please Explain: How We Read

Friday, April 03, 2009

If it comes to you easily, being able to read is easy to take for granted. But reading is an extraordinarily complex process, one that researchers are still working to understand fully. On today's Please Explain we look at the science of reading. Dr. Sally E. Shaywitz and Dr. Bennett A. Shaywitz are professors in Learning Development at the Yale University School of Medicine and Co-Directors of the Yale Center for Learning.

Comments [28]

Caren Mack from United States

Greetings! What would your guests recommend for a 21 yr old male who reads at a 2nd grade level and cannot write, but does not have any known diagnosis?

Many thanks, Caren

Apr. 03 2009 01:57 PM
Richard de la cruz from NYC

Are there any tips your guests can provide for an individual who has an average reading speed and wants to improve it........... Thanks.

Apr. 03 2009 01:57 PM
Carol from Queens

What is the definition of dyslexia and what percentage of the population dylexic.

Apr. 03 2009 01:56 PM
Christy from brooklyn

Is there a genetic component to dyslexia? I have always been a great reader, but my husband is dyslexic, and I wonder about how likely it will be for my 4-year-old boy to have difficulty reading.

Apr. 03 2009 01:55 PM
Carol from Queens

What is the specific definition of dyslexia, and proportion of the population is dyslexic?

Apr. 03 2009 01:53 PM
bob from NYC

is photographic (as oppose to speed) reading real or myth?

Apr. 03 2009 01:53 PM
sean from bklyn

great show. do your guests know if george w. bush has dyslexia or another problem since he seemed to have problems with mixing up words.

Apr. 03 2009 01:49 PM

My son is 18 and has a number of developmental disabilities. He is very verbal, can sound all consonants, and recognizes all letter sound (though English vowel sounds are confusing), but ultimately, can read very little, and when he does know a few words, he cannot externalize them outside his reading materials. Can something be done for him to gain reading ability?

Apr. 03 2009 01:49 PM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

We didn't have keyboarding in the 60s/70s..we had a program called "talking typewriter". Very similiar to keyboarding.

Apr. 03 2009 01:49 PM
Victor Nicolescu from Ramsey, NJ

I learned Romanian long time ago as my first language by hearing and in my 20's I learned English by reading. When I listen to English now I visualize the words as they are written.

Needless to say I am the best at spelling in the office.

Apr. 03 2009 01:48 PM
alison haber from Manhattan

You speak about the ability of people to speed read and be "fluid" readers (better readers) but that it depends on a certain part of the brain (if I understood correctly) does this then mean that there are some children (adults) who will never be "fluid" readers? What can be done to help this, if anything? Do we push our kids to be "readers",as they do now in the schools, if in fact they don't have this ability naturally??? Thank you!

Apr. 03 2009 01:47 PM
bk from nyc

I am 51 and have had a reading problem my entire life. the deliberation of reading just described on the show fits me to a T. out of self consousness I avoided reading out loud most of my life but have found, in the past few years, that I actually read almost better when I read aloud. any thoughts?

Apr. 03 2009 01:46 PM
Nancy from Brooklyn

The challenges of reading with dyslexia--the slowness, the effort and energy required--seem to resemble the experience of reading texts in a language in which the reader is not fully fluent.

Apr. 03 2009 01:46 PM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

Leonard, are you even reading the posts? Some of the guests have questions they would like answered by the guests..THanks!

Apr. 03 2009 01:45 PM
Hugh from Brookyn

How about processing of math/numbers versus processing of words???

Apr. 03 2009 01:41 PM
j from nyc

2 questions:
1. what do you think of the Orton-Gillingham method for dyslexic adults improving their reading skills?
2. are dyslexic people who are multi-use with their hands also prone to bilateralism in the same way as people who are truly ambidexterous might be.

Apr. 03 2009 01:41 PM
Ken from Soho

The guests were just talking about recognizing the shape or form of the word. When I see a word correctly spelled, I hear the sound of the word in my mind. When I see a misspelled word, I stop, look at it again, and realize that it is a misspelled word, and usually realize how it should have been spelled.

Apr. 03 2009 01:41 PM
Michael Hnatov from Brooklyn

I was given a paragraph to read where all the letters in the words where mixed up except the first and last letters of each word. I found it surprisingly easy to read. Why?

Apr. 03 2009 01:40 PM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

It is extremely easy to me, I read for fun. I didn't know it was so complex. I am very grateful because I can remember sitting with my cousin while reviewing homework and my grandmother swatted her everytime she read and mistook "saw" instead of "was" we didn't know about dislexia that many years ago. 1960's. Poor girl, she doesn't read well at all now.

Apr. 03 2009 01:40 PM
Hugh from Brookyn

Helen Keller learned to read -- Braille -- without eyesight or hearing. Moreover, she began the learning process quite far into her youth. *And* she became an intellectual firebrand.

Apr. 03 2009 01:38 PM
Ruth from NYC

I have a traumatic brain injury.
For some time, I was unable to read:
first, I had to get the letters to make sense as words,
and then put the words together to make a sentence...
and since I'd lost the ability to create memories, even for a couple of seconds... I was lost. Over a couple of years, the ability to read returned.

ALSO: my twin sister experienced trauma (death of mother) at age 6. She always had difficulty reading (I didn't, having learned to read by age 4). At age 37 she had an emotional breakthrough involving a deep grieving for our mother, and after that, began to read voraciously.

Comments?? Explanations? Thanks!
This is totally fascinating.

Apr. 03 2009 01:36 PM
Stephanie from Brooklyn

How does this research bear on the use of phonics as a teaching tool? I still remember the day over a decade ago when my son's kindergarten teacher explained that they were no longer using a phonetic approach to teach reading; instead, they were using a "whole language" approach. I felt relieved that my son already knew how to read at that point, because I couldn't imagine how one could effectively teach reading without phonics.

Apr. 03 2009 01:36 PM
Ken from Soho

When I read, I find myself hearing the words in my mind, so the sounds deliver the meaning.

Apr. 03 2009 01:34 PM
Stephanie Longo from Colorado

If the squiggles of writing have to be linked to sound, how do deaf people learn to read?

Apr. 03 2009 01:31 PM
hjs from 11211

Sumerians invented picture-hieroglyphs that developed into later cuneiform, and their language vies with Ancient Egyptian for credit as the oldest known written human language. NOT the Babylonians

Apr. 03 2009 01:30 PM
Hugh from Brookyn

How would you relate written language to 'primitive' pictorial language? Could a series of cave painting pictures be language?

What of people who teach themselves to read? (Nat Turner reportedly taught himself to read. I personally know a psychologist who taught himself to read.)

What of a child who initially grows up in, say, a Spanish speaking environment (so is initially 'programmed' for Spanish) but then moves to an English environment and then has to learn to read there?

Apr. 03 2009 01:29 PM
Betty Anne from UES

I study a lot of Marshall Mcluhan and he went into great detail to describe how written language changed the way the human eye went from "looking at" something to "reading it." It was something totally new.

Reading has caused great segregation since it began. It created the "intelligent" and "unintelligent."

Apr. 03 2009 01:28 PM

As Einstein saw some aspect of divinity in the often ungraspable order and beauty of the physical universe, so I saw it in watching my 5-year-old granddaughter read--haltingly sounding out each letter and sound. It was riveting and absolutely awe-inspiring.

2 years later, she read for me again, and I complimented her on how well she was reading now.

"Why, I remember when you were reading like this, "th-th- eh, eh, the--, en, en--then! th-- uh, uh, the! k-ca,a, ah, ah, t--tee, t, t, caht, caht--cat! . . ."

It totally surprised me and her mother when she said with bafflement,


We explained we all learned that way.

But her reaction seemed also awe-inspring.

Apr. 03 2009 12:48 PM

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