This post was authored by Lindsey Lipsky, M.Ed.
As educators, one of our biggest jobs is to help our students develop a love of reading. After all, without reading, one cannot engage fully in the world. But what if our learners have trouble accessing or reading print in the normal way? You see, 1 in 5 students in America has Dyslexia, a Learning Disability that hinders a person’s ability to decode words fluently, and ultimately read on level despite high IQ and normal comprehension. What can we do for them?
Over ninety percent of what we teach as educators is through what we call “eye reading;” decoding and analyzing text and word patterns on a page with your eyes, which are then interpreted back into comprehension. However, there are two other types of reading that we, as educators, need to be aware of for incorporation into best teaching practices for all.
1. Eye Reading
This is what 90% of us think of as “reading.” It is what we are most tested on, and taught in schools. Eye reading includes taking in words, sentences, and phrases through our eyes to develop meaning, which is the basis for almost all reading and ultimately comprehension for a majority of people. Without a doubt, eye reading must be taught and focused on in early elementary grades, especially in terms of developing phonemic awareness, fluency, and decoding skills. But what happens when a child still cannot “break the code” well beyond the elementary years?
2. Ear Reading
This is where ear reading can come into play. When you have a student who can’t “decode” the text but is reading/comprehending at a much higher level, they can still “read” with their ears! As Jennifer A., a Reading Specialist outside of Chicago, states to students; “You might learn better through your ears than you do taking in information through your eyes, and that’s totally fine because your brain is still doing the work with it.”
Check out the audiobooks of Learning Ally (human voice recorded) and Bookshare (digitized voice) that work to make reading accessible by providing oft-used textbooks, fiction, literature and more for K-12, college, and life-long reading.Watch the video by Sally Shaywitz at Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity here on the subject of audiobooks and ear reading.
3. Finger Reading
Finger reading is better known as “Braille Reading.” We would never say to a student with blindness or vision impairment that, when reading braille, they are not actually reading, would we? Then why do we say to students with Dyslexia and/or Learning Disability that “ear reading” is not really reading? Just like ear and eye reading, finger reading helps unlock doors for students, adults and learners who cannot access print in the normal way.
For students with Dyslexia, or a Learning Disability in Reading/Decoding, research has shown us that allowing students to “ear read” may make the difference between helping advance their comprehension growth or hinder it. In order to fully help students with Dyslexia in the classroom, they first need to be engaged in Multi-Sensory Structured Language (MSL) program instruction to help them “crack the code.” Read a list of recommended research-based MSL programs from the International Dyslexia Association. Next, provide audiobooks to help aid in grade-level comprehension and student self-growth. The combination of MSL program instruction and audiobooks are a powerful combination for all learners to keep up with their same age peers.
This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we've preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer's own.