Episode 34 - What Every Educator and Family Should Know About Reading with Carolyn Strom, PhD

Episode Summary

In this enlightening summer READ episode, Dr. Carolyn Strom explores the fundamental question: How do we share the science of the reading brain more effectively? Dr. Strom, a teacher educator and researcher at NYU, connects the science and story of the reading brain and offers applicable strategies for educators and families, from the “classroom to the kitchen table,” to support reading development in children. This episode disseminates clear and applicable knowledge for a broad audience and empowers listeners with the tools and strategies to advocate for and support all readers.

Top READ Bookmarks
Each episode, host Danielle Scorrano identifies key takeaways or “READ bookmarks.”

1. The mechanisms of the reading brain

The brain is not wired for reading, which means we are not born with an area of the brain that naturally develops for reading in the way it does for spoken language.

"What we see in neuroscience is an area of the brain that becomes specializes for letters and letter strings that didn’t exist at birth and doesn’t exist for non-readers."

"I can’t say it enough that a non-reading brain looks different than a reading brain. We actually change the brain once we learn to read."

Learning to read is a process of neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to adapt or change based on life experience. The brain has an area originally designed for recognizing faces and objects. The brain was not originally designed for reading and must adapt to recognize words and letters.

Through neuroplasticity, the brain uses this area to also recognize letters and connect them to the sound area of the brain, resulting in reading.

2. Dispelling Top Myths about the reading

MYTH:  Reading is a natural process.
FACT: Our brain must re-wire or re-build the areas used for visual and sound recognition to learn to read letters.

MYTH: Reading is a skill that eventually just “clicks” for children.
FACT: Building reading proficiency occurs over time through deliberate practice and involves a progression of skills.

MYTH: We memorize words when we learn to read.
FACT: We need to map words according to their visual representation (letter) and sounds through decoding. 

"I think sharing exactly how the brain maps words instead of memorizing words would help people understand the mechanics of reading."

3. Sharing the science of the reading brain

"If you take one class about teaching a child to read, you should leave knowing about the brain"

The science of the reading brain should be shared in a way that is accessible and applicable.

"I believe in visuals, metaphors, and stories to make the science come to life. But whatever it is, we have to do a better job at connecting the science to practice through telling the story of the reading brain."

4. Classroom and Kitchen Table Practices

Dr. Strom offers practices for families to build phonemic awareness such as “I hear with my little ear.”

In the classroom, current research explains how embedded picture mnemonics can build alphabetic knowledge, and there are benefits of integrated handwriting instruction in reading.

"I think that the history of reading instruction in this country has been so political and fraught, and it really doesn’t need to be. We know what to do to help all of our kids learn to read and we can do it now."


Learn more from Dr. Carolyn Strom  Connect with Dr. Strom on TwitterCortex in the Classroom: Advancing the Science of Reading in the Early Years, hosted by Amplify (April 7, 2022)

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READ Podcast is produced by The Windward School and The Windward Institute. READ is hosted by Danielle Scorrano.

About READ: READ, the Research Education ADvocacy Podcast connects you with prominent researchers, thought leaders, and educators who share their work, insights, and expertise about current research and best practices in fields of education and child development.

Note: All information and insights shared demonstrate the expertise and views of our guests and does not constitute an endorsement by The Windward Institute or The Windward School.