An overview of several evidence-based reading models and programs that are effective for preschoolers through teens, including special needs learners.
In recent decades, neuroscience has provided valuable insights into how the brain learns to read. Current research has made significant contributions in supporting efforts to improve students’ reading skills, by capturing the brain in the act of reading using brain imaging techniques, such as PET scans and fMRIs.
This ground-breaking research reveals that reading is not a natural part of human development, like spoken language, in that it does not follow from imitation of others. Specific regions of the brain are devoted to processing oral communication, but there are no specific regions of the brain dedicated to reading. The complex task of reading requires multiple areas of the brain to operate together through brain cell connections, called neuronal networks. This means there are many potential brain errors that can interfere with reading. When we consider all of the complex cognitive tasks required to go from connecting symbols to sounds, sounds to words, words to meaning, meaning to memory, and memory to thoughtful information processing, it is not surprising that many children and adults have reading difficulties.
In order to improve the reading capacity of our students, this neuroscientific research is now being applied to the development of reading strategies and techniques. As such, growing numbers of educators are now increasing their understanding of how the brain works and how to use more effective reading instruction strategies. Among them is Judy Willis, a board-certified neuroscientist and middle school teacher in Santa Barbara, California who asserts, “The more we understand the brain processes of reading, the more successfully we will be able to develop and use the most suitable strategies to strengthen students’ reading skills and their motivation to become lifelong readers and learners.”