This is the first in a series of Brain Bulletins to help educators understand the research and studies done about the brain as it pertains to reading.
The first step in connecting teaching to the research is to simply understand that reading is not
natural. This means, the brain does not naturally begin to read by just being exposed to text.
Reading involves multiple parts of the brain; the pathways and connections need to be built and
strengthened in the brain through our instruction. Teaching reading does involve science,
because there is actual evidence and data about how the brain processes language, written
text, and encoding (writing).
Reading and the activity of the brain can be seen
through studies using different methods such as
MRIs, neuro-imaging, and non-invasive brain
Full-disclosure: None of these are my area of expertise, but I believe in science. By looking at the studies and research done, hopefully we can help our littles more effectively.
Let’s review the general areas of the brain and their
simplified role in reading:
These do not include some sub-areas that have more specific tasks. These will be explained in future Brain Bulletins.
Frontal Lobe is responsible for: articulation and phonemic awareness
Broca’s Area is responsible for: muscles of speech, pronunciation, discrimination in speech sounds
Temporal Lobe is responsible for: meaning, connection to prior knowledge, context
Although the graphic shows a picture, this is a bit more complex. The basic way to explain is to say that this is where the brain finds meaning. A person might hear or read the word “can” and the brain uses the context and background knowledge to decipher if “can” represents the tin receptacle or the verb form. In a simple sense, this shows us how important knowledge, comprehension, and vocabulary acquisition are to the main goal of reading.
Parietal Lobe is responsible for: word analysis, connecting spoken sounds to the corresponding phonics structures
Occipital Lobe is responsible for: visual/word form, BUT this area is sensitive to “letter patterns, rather than visual features of individual letters” (Source of orthographic mapping)*
The brain is a complex machine and still requires research and studying, but there is sufficient and valid data to inform some of our practices. By understanding how the brain processes, or does not process, information and input, we can gear our teaching towards the most effective ways to support our students…. or at least understand the “why” behind some of our practices.
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Brain Bulletin #2: Orthographic Mapping in the Brain
CITATIONS (and places to read for deeper explanations and study information:
Daniel Kristanto, Mianxin Liu, Xinyang Liu, Werner Sommer, Changsong Zhou, Predicting reading ability from brain anatomy and function: From areas to connections, NeuroImage, Volume 218, 2020, 116966, ISSN 1053-8119, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116966.
Alina Benischek, Xiangyu Long, Christiane S. Rohr, Signe Bray, Deborah Dewey, Catherine Lebel, Pre-reading language abilities and the brain’s functional reading network in young children, NeuroImage, Volume 217, 2020, 116903, ISSN 1053-8119, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116903
*This will be a separate Brain Bulletin, but the citation comes from:
Todd L. Richards, Elizabeth H. Aylward, Virginia W. Berninger, Katherine M. Field, Amie C. Grimme, Anne L. Richards, William Nagy, Individual fMRI activation in orthographic mapping and morpheme mapping after orthographic or morphological spelling treatment in child dyslexics, Journal of Neurolinguistics, Volume 19, Issue 1, 2006, Pages 56-86, ISSN 0911-6044, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneuroling.2005.07.003.