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There Is A Way To Teach Children How To Read – GUEST OPINION

Date: June 9, 2012 Author: admin Categories: Blog, Press

One percent of children with severe learning disabilities have dyslexia, a medical condition that affects children’s ability to read. Dyslexic children have neurological dysfunctions that manifest themselves as symptoms of hyperactivity (inability to concentrate) strephosymbolia (reading letters and numerals backward).

Barbara A. Jackson

The cause of dyslexia is still unknown, but doctors blame brain damage and other organic dysfunctions for the ailment.

However, there are far too many normal children exhibiting symptoms of dyslexia that are not the result of chemical and physical abnormalities. Some 30 percent to 50 percent of youngsters in our nation’s schools are suffering from an inability to read. Many children are so severely handicapped that they can’t read street signs, want ads, job applications, labels on medical bottles or safety signs.

Statistics show that a reading disorder can affect a child’s entire life. Often children who cannot read grow up to be disadvantaged adults. Three –fourth of juvenile offenders and almost all school dropouts have serious reading deficiencies. Reading disabilities can lead to poverty and mental depression.

If dyslexia affects such a small percentage of children, what accounts for the majority of disabled readers have normal physical and mental abilities but suffer psychologically from not being able to read.

According to studies, psychological learning blocks are caused from teaching children to read words by sight before they fully understand that words are composed of letters and that letters stand for sounds.

Learning words by sight does not teach children to sound out words. Children are expected to figure out the alphabetical system on their own. This entails memorizing hundreds of words before being able to discover for themselves that words have patterns.

Memorizing seemingly endless numbers of words by sight recognition can cause children to become frustrated, bored and apathetic. Eventually, they give up. The sight method does not challenge learning.

Some of the symptoms common to having psychological learning blocks are reading letters backward (“b” for “d”), reading words backward (“was” for “saw”), confusing words having similar configurations (“said” for “and”), guessing )”quick” for “quiet”), and hyperactivity.

Yet, for most children, reading disabilities can be cured and even prevented by teaching children to read with phonics, a system that transposes letters into speech sounds. The 26 letters are assigned the power to represent approximately 44 voice sounds used to speak the English language. Once children learn that letters are symbols that represent sounds, reading becomes understandable and automatic, much like learning to walk, talk and tie shoes.

Phonics is a natural way to learn how to read. The alphabet is the phonetic foundation of our language, a key to unlocking and deciphering words through syllabication, pronunciation and spelling. Therefore, it is only logical to learn how to blend the 26 letters, or atoms, so to speak, into all possible combinations of sounds that are peculiar to our language.

Whether a reading disorder is neurological or psychological, its only cure is phonics.

Barbara A. Jackson is a retired 1 st grade teacher author and learning therapist/tutor. Readers are welcomed to submit proposed “Guest Opinion” columns to Editorial Dept., Daily News, 400 N. Broad St., Phila., Pa. 19101.

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