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A Moment of Science

Dyslexia

As the popular slogan states, “reading is fundamental.” But for many kids with dyslexia, learning to read is a struggle. Simply put, children with reading disorders have trouble recognizing words and letters on the page. Although reading difficulty has been studied for over 100 years, scientists have never determined a specific cause.

Over the past twenty years, however, researchers have made significant strides. Many agree that the disorder can be best explained by understanding the mechanics of reading. When a child learns to read, he begins to associate the shapes of letters with sounds, and then strings the sounds together to form words. When a learning reader sees the letters C-A-T on the page, she begins by recognizing that the letter “C” makes a “kuh” sound, A makes an “ahh” sound, and so on. These basic sounds are called phonemes, and the ability to manipulate them is called phonological awareness.

Many researches now believe that for children with reading disorders, the problem has to do with impaired phonological awareness. Such children may know what a cat is and be able to describe it in detail, but when it comes to sounding out the written word “CAT,” the parts of their brains responsible for processing phonemes just don’t work as well as they should.

Many reading disorders seem to have nothing to do with intelligence. Albert Einstein was dyslexic, and he turned out to be pretty bright. The good news is that with proper training, nearly all children can learn to read with proficiency. And that, as we know, is fundamental.

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