Reading Problems and the Brain


Reading Problems and the Brain

By Jeremiah Cameron, Ph.D. (July 8, 2001)

The teaching of reading is a national disaster because a lack of instructional understanding of what a language is (that is, its sounds; its grammar; its sequencing of words and grammatical units; and its idioms and vocabulary) and how the brain remains MASTER of all language skills, processed in various areas and most especially in the Left Temporal Lobe. One should not have to think a second time to understand the validity of this charge. Parents—especially the mother, who represents language to the baby—are the first teachers of the language skills that lead to reading, and there are things that they can do earlier than the school. These early actions create brain cells for reading.

The failure of so many kids to read—especially poor and minority kids—has nothing to do with intelligence. Most people have language skills adequate to their daily life: God has seen to that in the way he has seen to sunlight and air. We make our own language, just as we make clothing accepted in our social life. Any one language is as good as another—in its place (which could be formal, informal, colloquial, low-life, etc.) and performing its function. Written materials in this country are most often put in the dialect (and all languages are really dialects) of the power structure—called Standard or STANDARD AMERICAN ENGLISH.

If a child grows up in a middle class or upper class family and lives in a similar community, he will grow up with the grammar, syntax, idioms, and vocabulary found in schoolbooks. Nerve cells and interconnections in the LEFT TEMPORAL LOBE have been created to COMPREHEND the wordings and arrangement of words on the printed page: HE CAN READ. Interestingly, that same lobe controls hand movements; hence, the gestures of the right hand that often accompany speech.

If a child is poor (as too many minority children are) he may speak one of a number of different other dialects (and they are not sub-dialects; they are bonafide ways of speaking, although they may not be STANDARD). For the sentence "The new students in our class came from Africa," he may say, "New students of our class done come out of Africa." Such students will at first—and maybe finally—have trouble reading the bookish language. In a book published in the 1980's—Twice As Less—the writer details a number of such non-standard phrasal and dependent clause constructions of black high school students. You would think that by now teachers of language who listen to black children talk, or read what they write, would have recognized first, that the writing is erroneous and secondly, that such speech might inhibit reading the Standard English of the printed page. Such is the case, and teachers must find means of helping non-standard speakers decode—in their brains the printed page. And this must be done very early—before the onset of puberty.

The Jeremiah Cameron Articles