Why Learning to Read is Harder Than Learning to Speak
Learning to speak and understand language is natural for most human beings. We are biologically wired to do that and it is part of our human heritage. We’re born to do that, and unless we have some language problem that we’re born with, we acquire a language just by being exposed. By being with caregivers, parents, siblings, peers that surround us with language. And it’s just magical to see it unfold.
Learning to read, on the other hand, is a cultural invention. So our brains just don’t come with that wiring. And it’s relatively recent, five thousand years, that we’ve had a system that actually represents spoken language. We didn’t have, you know, an alphabet. We wouldn’t be able to convey our thoughts, and perpetuate, you know, ideas. So it’s a wonderful thing, but it’s a challenging thing.
Because what we have to do, is to use areas of the brain, left hemisphere, that are really wired for humans to acquire language. And we have to build a neuro-circuitry to be able to skillfully and automatically, effortlessly, pull words off the page while making meaning. And for some children, that is just a very difficult thing to do. It has nothing to do with intelligence. It has nothing to do with exposure.
It has everything to do with, “I was born with this brain.” And skilled reading instruction will address those neurobiological differences.