Sunday, August 23, 2020

Mark Seidenberg on 'How the brain learns to read' and my comments.


On 20.8.2020 I read a tweet that said; .

You can find the YouTube video at

‘Last week @markseidenberg presented a talk titled "Can Reading Research Improve Literacy Outcomes?" at the Wisconsin Joint Legislative Council's symposia series on early literacy policies. Exciting to see the interest in science!’

Mark Seidenberg is from the University of Wisconsin.


I heard the following (you may listen to it at minute 11);

Mark Seidenberg:

‘.. this is used in something called phonemic awareness task. It is something that is often used with young children to try to assess their progress in gaining certain basic components of reading. So, the phonemic awareness test is simple. I say something like;

say split without the puh/per

say crab without the buh/ber

say tub without the tuh/ter

say lamb without the muh/mer

He goes on to say, ‘knowledge of spelling is affecting people’s knowledge of the sounds of language’. The spelling has somehow penetrated the person’s knowledge of the spoken word in a way that affects their performance on these tasks. So this speaks to the integration the close association of print and sound.


My comment: It is only now that I understand why Mark Seidenberg did not respond to many of my tweets. Mark is one of those fortunate ones who is a skilled reader who did not get disengaged from learning to read. Obviously he had not understood my tweets. 


We need to ask the SSP proponents how Mark became a skilled reader despite pronouncing the phonemes of consonants with extraneous sounds.


He will fall into the category of the two students who read Dr.David Kilpatrick’s nonsense words despite adding extraneous sounds to phonemes of consonants found here and here.

Don’t forget that the talk was titled, ‘’Can Reading Research Improve Literacy Outcomes?"

Mark Seidenberg:

Instruction of print and sound is called phonics.

Teachers have been taught that this is the path to poor reading.

That is the opposite of what this research shows.

a. If integration of print and sound is characteristic of skilled reading;

b. And poor readers fail to integrate

c. Early instruction should emphasise connecting print and speech.

Research tells us about how reading works and how children learn that cannot be determined by observation alone.

Reading is a complex process.

The machinery is hidden under the hood.

It takes systematic research to uncover the basic mechanism

My comment: Poor readers fail to integrate print and sound only because of teachers teaching the pronunciation of phonemes wrongly.

How would a kid ‘integrate print and sound’ and read luh – ah – muh – buh for lamb? (the sound of the vowel is added by me while the consonants are that of Mark Seidenberg.)


Mark Seidenberg:

A better understanding of how reading works -> better educational practice.

Why do I emphasise this?

Because teachers are taught to rely on personal experience and observation.

To figure out what works for them and other students.

That is not good enough.

Teachers classroom experience is relevant but it is not adequate to determine how reading works.

which practices are effective?


My comment: The two brain scientists, Mark Seidenberg and Sally Shaywitz, appear not to know that kids get confused when pronunciation of phonemes are taught with extraneous sounds and about 20% of them simply lose interest and disengage from learning to read.

You may read two of several posts on Sally Shaywitz here and here.


I know the answer to the last 2 questions above. The practices which are effective are those where pronunciation of phonemes of consonants are taught correctly.

Why? To ensure kids are not confused and shut down from learning to read.

Mark Seidenberg: 

The Science says that intuitions are not enough, in fact they quite often are misleading.

The Wisconsin State Reading Association (WSRA) is an obstacle to improving literacy outcomes in Wisconsin. I challenge their expertise and their relevance to deciding how to make meaningful changes to improve outcomes.

They are not representing the interest of teachers or children or Wisconsin.

My comment: I challenge WSRA and Mark Seidenberg by saying that the Reading Wars can be ended by teaching the correct pronunciation of phonemes of consonants. Children predisposed to shutting down can only learn the other important matters concerning learning to read if they do not disengage from learning to read.

As such, the first step is to prevent kids from shutting down/ disengaging from learning to read.

Mark Seidenberg:

Many reading problems are actually about spoken language that arise before children reach school age.

They are at risk of reading problems on their first day of school.

That is not because of ineffective reading instruction.

It is because reading depends on spoken language.

My comment: This reminds me of recent tweets which said that the reading standards in Australia has dramatically declined in recent years.

In 2018, I had already warned that there will be a dramatic decline throughout the world because of the harm done by Baby TV. Toddlers will have learned the wrong pronunciation of consonant sounds which they have been exposed to and those predisposed to disengaging when confused will shut down from learning to read. Read 2 of a few posts on this here and here.



Also do read my post on how adamant a child can be when she has learned something wrongly. This is what Thorndike had said in 1913. You may see the video clip here.



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