Reading seems automatic and easy for people who are good at it. That makes it hard to understand how reading can be so challenging for people who struggle with it. However, reading is actually a very complex task for our brains.
It’s a little like driving a car. You have to do a lot of things well, all at the same time, and continuously make adjustments. It seems simple for experienced drivers, but think about how easy it is to crash or how many things you have to teach someone who is learning to drive.
The good news is we know a lot about the risk factors for reading failure and what it takes to develop successful readers. The best teaching strategies for children at risk for reading failure are built into the Nemours BrightStart! program.
Research has proven that the earlier we find children at risk for reading problems and begin proper instruction, the better their outcomes. That’s what Nemours BrightStart! is all about: helping every child achieve his or her reading potential, for school and for life.
Risk Factors for Reading Problems
While reading problems occur across all races, ethnicities, socioeconomic levels and in all written languages, there are specific risk factors:
Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading problems and affects up to 20 percent of the population. It has a brain basis and runs in families. In fact, each child of a parent with dyslexia has about a 30-40 percent chance of having this condition.
People with dyslexia are very intelligent but have subtle brain processing problems that make reading and spelling difficult. The Nemours BrightStart! program was started to develop an approach to the earliest possible identification and intervention for children at risk for dyslexia, when efforts have the greatest impact. Learn More About Dyslexia »
Some parents may not read well either because of dyslexia that has never been identified or for other reasons. They may not provide enough reading opportunities or model reading themselves in the home because reading is just not interesting or fun. Their children, in turn, may lack experiences that successfully build their reading readiness skills.
Reading is fundamentally a language activity. We read to gain meaning from printed words as an alternative to learning through listening. The same parts of the human brain that help us understand spoken language play a major role in reading. The speech and language skills that children develop from birth through age five are critical for supporting the development of reading skills.
Not surprisingly, young children who struggle with speech and language are
also at risk for reading problems. Most experts believe that about 30 percent of children with preschool language problems will experience challenges with learning to read.
What about children whose first language is not English? Often, they also have difficulty learning to read in English. We have found that the same special teaching practices built into the Nemours BrightStart! program are highly effective for dual language learners just as they are for children at risk for
Research has shown that dyslexia and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can often occur together. At Nemours BrightStart!, we recognize the negative effects of distractibility and poor-sustained attention on learning to read. Our multisensory, fast-paced teaching methods are designed to help all children maintain their attention.
Small group instruction is highly beneficial for children with attentional, behavioral or emotional challenges and also fosters a close, secure relationship between teacher and child that makes learning easier and more motivating.
Sadly, far too many children are growing up in impoverished homes where they lack access to books, magazines and computers. In many of these homes, young children have fewer extended conversations with adults. They fail to build a broad vocabulary, don’t understand or speak in complex sentences, and don’t have a wide range of experiences that expand understanding of their community or world.
The cause of their delay is very different than that of a child at risk for dyslexia or a dual language learner. But the same teaching approaches for reading work regardless of the original cause of a child’s reading struggles.
Since the beginning, Nemours BrightStart! has prioritized children, families and early childhood settings in impoverished neighborhoods and made great progress in helping to close the reading readiness achievement gap for some of our most vulnerable children.