Brain Involvement in Reading

Brain Involvement in Reading

Brain Involvement in Reading

By Jeremiah Cameron, Ph.D. (June 2, 2001)

I would not be doing all these articles on neurology (the brain), if I, as a former teacher of language, whose graduate training was in English linguistics, was not suggesting to others in the language arts, where reading resides, that specific brain developments must be taken into consideration as they help children learn to read. Decoding writing requires mental transposing.

What happens to the brain during the first 10 years of life, predicts for us what individual and societal life are going to be like later. Why are we so bull-headed as a people, so willing to spend billions later trying to avenge or correct behavior that could have been prevented for pennies in the early years of life? Of course everybody knows that this is true of health also. The message of the Old Testament about "training a child up in the way you would have him go" is the wisdom of every religion and people on earth. The "eye on the prize" is on early childhood development.

I must say over and over that reading is one language skill among others, like talking, singing, and mimicking. Paleontologists tell us, by examining ancient human fossils, that man was not able to talk until his voice box, after centuries of human development, became lowered in the throat. As quiet as it is kept, this is why babies, in spite of being exposed to human speech for months, cannot produce speech either until the voice box, usually 12 to 19 months after birth, lowers in their throat. Language is basically sound, which is produced on the exhaled air coming out of the lungs. Muscles in the diaphragm, like a bellows, force the air up through the voice box into the mouth where the tongue and lips do so many things with it as to produce hundreds of sounds possible for language. Some speech, like crying, is on inhaled air: Shakespeare's "tut-tut."

American English operates with some 14 vowels; 5 diphthongs; 25 consonants; 2 to 4 stresses; 3 to 4 pauses; and 3 to 4 pitches. We call the 19 vowels and 25 consonants SEGMENTAL PHONEMES and the pauses, (actually junctures), stresses, and pitches SUPRA-SEGMENTAL PHONEMES. The phonemes (which in a language can exist in many forms) are to language what an atom is to matter. They determine MEANING.

Broca's Area

Notice the different meanings in these two sentences that contain a word with the same segmental phonemes but with different supra-segmental phonemes: "Mistress Mary, quite conTRARY, who on the CONtrary is very kind." Stress changes meaning.

These sounds are produced in the mouth by cells in BROCA's AREA in the brain (indicated in red in the figure), but they are HEARD or PERCEIVED by brain cells in the left hemisphere of the TEMPORAL LOBE.

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