Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Dehaene - How the brain learns to read? Copied from my post in March 2022.

This is a post from  Sunday, March 27, 2022 which a Twitter said she can't access. Thanks to her, I notified Go-Daddy which confirmed that my subscription is up to date. The issue may be with Blogger. I have written to blogger and hope to get a response soon. Meanwhile, I copied the post here.

This is a continuation of my previous post found here

Peter Blenkinsop, kept insisting that I listen to Prof. Stanislas Dehaene video and educate him on how a child learns to read.

Why Peter, who calls himself a consultant, wants me to explain it to him is beyond me but I shall try and describe what I have understood from the video. 

Peter asked me to listen to minute 14.30 of the video above which says:


Reading requires specializing the visual system for the shapes of the letters, and connecting them to speech sounds.

Teaching letter-sound correspondences is therefore essential.

Brain research converges with educational research: Teaching letter-sound correspondences is the fastest way to acquire reading and comprehension.

Once these correspondences are learned, self-teaching can occur: children decipher words, recognize them auditorily, and access their meaning. This develops a second direct route from vision to meaning.

Note: Observe the diagram at minute 15.15 to 15.30 in the video above.

Here is my understanding of the video:

It appears to me to show changes in the brain after being able to read. It shows the changes but does not explain how a child learns to read.

This debate on Twitter came about because I had said that no one knows how a child learns to read.

I agree that teaching letter-sound correspondences is the fastest way to acquiring reading (decoding). However, I don’t believe that is the only way. This would be common knowledge as millions did learn to read during the whole word/language period.

Dehaene appears to be saying to connect the letters to speech sounds and not to the phonemes which we cannot hear when words are spoken. The diagram at minute 15.30 appears to be conveying the same message.

This video is about how education changes the brain (minute 1.41) and not about how a child learns to read.

For now, I would like to think aloud on the message above.

Dehaene says that whole word learning is a myth. He says there is no such thing as learning words globally.

At minute 12.54: We have an illusion of whole word reading. The brain still processes every single letter and does not look at the whole shape. So, whole word reading is a myth.

I don’t encourage learning using the whole word system but I have a few questions.

My questions are:

i.                     How did the deaf and mute learn to read words back in the 1840’s when pictures/ images were accompanied with words? For example, a picture of a dog with the word ‘dog’ below it. Let us remember these are deaf and mute people which means they cannot hear any sound of words let alone phonemes.The deaf and mute first learned to read this way.

ii.                   How do the kids with Auditory Processing Disorder learn to read?

Here is part of a discussion from 2 days ago, with a person with APD:

Hi Luqman, Basically when I was sent a research paper about 20 years ago, it contained for me a great deal of new words which are the terminology used by those carrying out the research to explain to their colleagues and others the issues they are investigating.

It took me over 3 months to work out what the various new words related to, and I was able to recognise them visually, when I saw them in the text of other research papers after that. I had to find a description of the meaning of each word online which uses everyday language which I have been using for most of my life.


iii.                 All my more than 70 dyslexic students were able to read the 220 Dolch words by rote memory. They were taught to memorise the Dolch words by sounding out the letter names (not the sounds represented by letters). They were told to say – w-i-t-h ‘with’ 5 times and move to the next word. Within a short period, they were all able to spell all the 220 Dolch words with ease. Here is an example of a dyslexic kid who, on his 8th lesson, read a list of Dolch words he had learnt to lesson 7.

iv.                 How do children who have been taught the sounds of consonants with extraneous sounds learn how to read after struggling and figuring out or making sense of /kuh/ /ah/ /tuh/ is cat.  How does self-teaching occur for these kids? You may listen to the two university students from Perth recorded in 2019. LINK.

Based on my observations above and having taught dyslexic kids I would say that no one has really discovered how kids learn to read.

I believe the mind is powerful and is able to connect the words/ letters read to the spoken words it hears.

Thank goodness for kids being able to read using patterns and analogies. 

Here are my comments on the article above:


Luqman Michel said...

Here is a paragraph from a book by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 1998:

Visual processes initiate word identification and immediately trigger other processes that complete it, including, most importantly, phonological decoding processes, which concern the correspondences between printed letters and the sounds of the language, especially phonemes, the small sound units within spoken and heard words. The research on reading in alphabetic writing systems has developed an important consensus that phonological decoding is a routine part of skilled word identification. How the phonological and visual-orthographic information gets combined for the identification of individual words has been the focus of much research, fueled in recent years by theoretical debates about how to conceptualize the cognitive mechanisms of word identification.

Luqman Michel said...

Here is an article I read today, 9.4.2022 written by a deaf person, Christina Hartmann, which answers some of the questions I have asked above.

The following was written 9 years ago.

How are deaf people taught to read? How do you teach adjectives or intangible words such as “where”?

I was born profoundly deaf. That means no hearing: nada, zilch, zippo. I'm probably one of the few people who knows what absolute silence sounds like.

I started learning sign language when I was six months old. Specifically, I learned Signed Exact English (SEE) which incorporates the same grammar and syntax as English with a heavy emphasis on fingerspelling.

My mom read to me, just like many other children. She would sign with the book propped up on her lap and she'd give me some time to look at the book first and then start signing. I could shift my attention between her and the book.

Also, my parents always had the TV closed captions turned on. (Closed captions are the textual display of spoken dialogue.) So, from a very young age, I knew there were things like letters, sentences and words.

Even to this day, it's not clear how I learned to read.

I think that, through fingerspelling, my mother signing stories to me, and the closed captions, somehow I realized that the printed word meant the same thing as signs and finger spelled words.

To this day, I don't read phonetically despite the fact that I have a cochlear implant (CI) and can "hear."

Deaf children, instead of learning phonetically, can "map" words with ASL signs. Deaf children with good signing skills (not all of them have that) can match up the word, "where" with the sign "where." With such children, the best teaching approach would be similar to mine: signing as one reads.

As I read, I can easily translate words into images and ideas, suggesting that I'm not wedded to phonetics. Sometimes when I'm having difficulty deciding what word to choose, I'll sign to myself. In short, I see words in a more conceptual way, just like ASL is a highly conceptual language.

All the above being said, some deaf people struggle to read at grade level. I suspect it's not because of their deafness per se, but the inadequacy of their educational environment.

In short, how a deaf child learns how to read depends on their first language (ASL, SEE or spoken English).

Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist, linguist or an educational professional. In fact, if any of these weigh in, you may want to listen to them as well. These experiences and opinions are mine and mine alone.



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