Reading and Dyslexia Research
What follows is a collection of resources and research on reading and dyslexia. I recommend that you begin by watching my YouTube video and skimming my pedagogy blog posts. Then, skim through this entire list. Finally, watch Stanislaus Dehaene's video and then click on the resources that seem of most relevance to your situation and explore.
Volkman, J. (2017). Reading & dyslexia: A neuroscientific perspective. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDaLpwKPClUI have worked with many children with dyslexia, including my own son. The more research I read and the more children I encounter, the clearer it becomes that dyslexia is not a deficit at all, just a different wiring pattern in the brain. While it makes reading difficult, it also confers many gifts.
In the above image, red indicates connectivity between key areas (in green) of the reading network in typical readers; Blue indicates how those same areas are connected in people with reading impairment/dyslexia (Finn, et al., 2014). This illustrates that the brain networks used for reading are markedly different in those with versus those without dyslexia.
The blue lines in the image above show the arcuate fasciculus as seen in brain imaging of infants with (FHD+) and without (FHD-) a family history of dyslexia/reading impairment. The AC is a key axonal (white matter) tract that connects critical parts of the reading network (Broca's area and Wernicke's area). Langer and colleagues found that infants under 18 months of age with a family history of dyslexia had significantly less white matter in the arcuate fasciculus than infants without a family history of dyslexia (Langer, et al., 2015). This suggests that a genetically-driven difference in neural connectivity is at the root of dyslexia.
Even though the inefficient reading and spelling skills seen in dyslexia appear to be genetically-driven, the brain has this little thing called plasticity. Genetics never work in a vacuum. The experiences/environment children have dramatically influence how their genetics unfold. Genes are turning on and off all the time. This is cause for optimism. It means that with the right support, everyone can learn to read.
I am also convinced that the Montessori language program ideally meets the needs of young children at risk for reading impairment. But, it must be offered in it's entirety, especially the spoken language work and sound games. In addition, Montessori language work must be required for these children. They may not choose it freely and repeatedly (which is necessary for mastery) because their brains are wired differently. It must become part of a daily routine, just like brushing your teeth. And then, possibly years later than you might normally anticipate, the children will become capable readers. You can read more about the Montessori approach to reading and how it may benefit children with dyslexia on the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector's website.
The essential guide through all of this must be the child's interest. Even severe dyslexics can go on to become nobel laureates in reading intensive jobs. How? Because they are so deeply interested in the subject matter that they persist and overcome. Nurture and inspire the child's interest, lay the foundation with a daily menu of the complete Montessori language program, and reading will follow.
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- Dehaene, S. (2013). How the brain learns to read. World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) Summit: Qatar. Available at https://youtu.be/25GI3-kiLdo
- Dehaene, S. (2009). Reading in the Brain. Penguin.
- Dehaene, S. et al. (2010). How learning to read changes the cortical networks for vision and language. Science, 330, 1359–1364. Retrieved from http://www.unicog.org/publications/Science-2010-Dehaene-1359-64.pdf
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