Obstructions to Reading

"Obstructions to Reading"

"Obstructions to Reading"

By Jeremiah Cameron, Ph.D. (September 14, 2001)

It is fall again. It is time for children to return to school. It is time for the kids to hit the books again, for it will be through books that children will mainly learn the things taught in school. And this is the rub: Most of the poor kids cannot read, and judges and teachers cannot order them to perform a skill which is as impossible for them as it is for a man to walk without legs.

The naïve public has no idea that the main obstruction lies in precise under-development of the brain centers of language: Recently the local newspaper had coupons that teachers and children can send in to get free reading material. Though a noble gesture, it is pretty much like offering a blind man spectacles to peruse the morning's news or like turning a deaf man's head in the direction of the record player so that he can enjoy Beethoven. Like the inability to read, the loss of vision and hearing is often actually in brain centers for those senses. Vision and hearing are at the heart of reading.

Even those traditionally trained as reading specialists (the problem being that they are not trained in the linguistics of reading) know that the brain, in reading or decoding the printed page, often has to transpose the writing into the spoken language of the reader. Again, here is the rub:

The printed pages of the books so freely offered by the newspapers present a problem to the kids comparable to the blind man's trying to read the morning's news. If those kids have come from homes and communities where their dialects of English differ from what is on the printed page in vocabulary; idioms; grammar; syntactical arrangements of phrases and clauses; pauses and pitches—then they will have to go through a difficult process of translating what they have been told is their own language, just as if they were reading Russian or German. To them the process is more demeaning than rewarding.

Why don't Asians have this same problem—to the extent that blacks and American Mexicans do? Linguists call the problem INTERFERENCE: Since non-standard English is so much like Standard English—in basic structures and vocabulary—the differing structures of the non-standard language INTERFERE with the structures of language on the printed page, which children MUST learn to read before they are 12 years old. English is an INFLECTIONAL language with structures quite different from Chinese, which is an ANALYTICAL language, where various levels of pitch determine meaning. This is why those speaking Chinese seem to be singing as they talk. Speaking Chinese does not INTERFERE with the learning of Standard English. In another article I am going to detail structures of non-standard English which cause the brain to have difficulty in TRANSPOSING printed language into spoken language.

Learning to read is more than practice: It is knowing how to TRANSPOSE, which poor children have difficulty doing, no matter how much free printed matter you give them.

The Jeremiah Cameron Articles