Why is Literacy Hard for Some and Not for Others?

One of the things plaguing modern linguists and some social scientists is the rates of literacy around the world and particularly for the English language. Because English is such an important language in the scheme of world trade and commerce, it makes sense that there would be variation in skills to learn the language. Many people find that literacy is harder than it is for others (whether it be in English or in another language). Sometimes this is due to cognitive reasons that are genetic and out of the control of parents, but other times societal reasons are to blame.

Understanding the rich history of education in the western world will help to better understand why some people find literacy hard and some do not. There are so many factors involved that it makes a difference to view these type of facts.

Symbols to Words and Communication

The process of becoming literate is an intriguing one. For humans, we take specific symbols that have designated meanings and they are made into sounds that have different meanings. Between all of this, a young child must be able to keep up with all of the exceptions, rules, and changes that these symbols and sounds can include.

Thinking about the process, it is no wonder some children have it harder than others! One scientist by the name of Fumiko Hoeft is a cognitive neuroscientist and psychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco. She believes that many traits are obviously linked to certain genetics, but reading can be more environmental and hard to pinpoint.

There are many societal and environmental factors that play a role in the literacy rates for most children. For example, lower socioeconomic areas often find that children are less able to read well and learn to be literate in that way. In 2008 and 2009, Hoeft published a few pieces that carefully analyzed parents and how they might be able to learn more about a child’s reading ability. There were interviews, tests, brain scans, and through it all, Hoeft had some major findings.

After all of this research, Hoeft found only one thing that really stuck out from genetic and environmental factors. The growth of white matter in one specific area of the brain (the left temporoparietal region). The most important factor: the white matter that a child had when entering kindergarten was irrelevant. The change in volume from kindergarten and third grade did matter.

White Matter and Literacy – What Does This Mean?

White matter is basically a connective neurological highway where signals are sent through the brain. The increase in white matter means sufficient nutrition, plenty of practice, and active learning. Those children who essentially were able to focus and start learning to become literate found themselves far more likely to do so. The children needed to learn about the white matter at a certain time of their life or else they would lose the window and perhaps cause problems.

The interesting thing is that overall intelligence did not matter much for literacy rates in children. While the more intelligent might have correlated with higher white matter in some instances, the overall indication is that there was less of a correlation than people would have initially thought.

What all this means is that there is a specific time in a child’s life where learning how to read is very important. The practice of learning and the attempts that they make to process certain words and sounds will make certain parts of the brain really light up and become bigger and more impactful. For a lot of people who are trying to “figure out” literacy for their children, this is a good thing to hear.

It may not be based on factors that are out of your control. Instead, they are based more on factors that are easily controlled by parents who are dedicated and on top of increasing their child’s ability to read.

Learning to Read – Phonetics

Phonetics are on of the biggest parts of learning to read, as is rhyming, because both allow you to recognize the what certain word grouping should sound like. Here are a couple videos that have some introductory rhymes and phonetics, please note that they are geared for kids, but still suitable for those trying to learn how to read:

Here is a video that contains rhyming.

See a good video that we should include, let us know!

Literacy: How to Learn to Read

If you are reading this article, it’s obvious that you know how to read the English language, but someone that you know and love might need help. In fact, even you might have some understanding of English, but you want to get better. Great!

English is the most spoken language in the world and because of the British Empire and United States of America, it will continue to be that way for quite some time. Learning how to read and write English is actually quite easy compared to most languages, but it requires time, patience, and practice.

This article will help you to learn how to read better or teach someone how to read with the basics. In order to understand how to become literate, it is important to view how a child learns to read to get into the same mindset.

Sounds and Connections to Print

The alphabet has no real meaning on its own. If you think about the various different letters in the English language, these do not have a lot of meaning individually. However, if you look at how these letters are formed with other words they start to take on meaning. Each of these letters are linked together with sounds called “phonemes”. This isn’t something you need to remember, but in essence it is the blending of letters together to create words.

Children often learn English by finding the relationship between sounds and letters. The beginning reader must learn the connections of approximately 44 sounds of spoken English in addition to the 26 letters of the alphabet. For some people, it is possible to have 30 or even 40 of the sounds well spoken without being fluent in the language.

There is a lot of research done by the NICHD in the United States, which teaches us a lot about how a child (or beginner) learns to read. By understanding this process, it is possible to teach people to become literate far more easy in the English language. Usually, the process of learning to connect and translate printed symbols into sound is not difficult.

This process of breaking speech into segmented sounds is one of the reasons a newly literate person in English has to sound out words with such slow precision. They are just getting used to the different sounds that go together in the English language. This is the most important part of becoming literate in English and it is one that requires a lot of practice!

Why Literacy in English is Important

There are many schools of thought on learning languages, but for many people it is a process of leaning in order to communicate with the world. English is a language that everyone should know if they want to be well traveled, able to communicate with people from all regions of the world, and are generally interested in some type of life outside their own country.

For children who are living in an English speaking country it is even more important to have a good grasp of the English language. Literacy at a young age is going to help the child to develop far faster and more efficiently than most other children. It will give them an advantage over their peers that can last them for a long time. More importantly, by practicing literacy early, they can be ahead when they finally get into school.

The important thing to consider with teaching children literacy is that they are often far more susceptible to learning than an adult. Their brain chemistry is such that there is a lot of growth going on and most of it is going to impact them later on. This rapid growth is something that everyone should try to take advantage of as much as possible. For children it means learning the language with far more ease and depth.

Even if an adult is learning to become literate later on in life, that doesn’t mean they have a disadvantage. It might be a slower process, but they can learn just as well and just as fast. Make sure that you are able to get support if you or someone you know is learning to become literate at a later age.

Literacy and Additional Learning

You might find that becoming literate helps you to learn far more than you would have expected in other realms of your life as well. The development that your brain undergoes when learning a new language is very intensive in a caloric sense. Your body will literally use up more food and energy in order to become literate and learn more about the world around you.

Welcome to the world of literacy for you and your loved ones! Learning the English language in print will make a big difference and change your life for the better!