"An important and alarming new book." --New York Times
The way we teach reading is not working, and it cannot continue. We have largely abandoned phones-based reading instruction, despite research that supports its importance for word recognition. Rather than treating Black English as a valid dialect and recognizing that speaking one dialect can impact the ability to learn to read in another, teachers simply dismiss it as "incorrect English." And while we press children to develop large vocabularies because we think being a good reader means knowing more words, studies have found that a large vocabulary is only an indication of better pattern recognition.
Understanding the science of reading is more important than ever--for us, and for our children. Seidenberg helps us do so by drawing on cutting-edge research in machine learning, linguistics, and early childhood development. Language at the Speed of Sight offers an erudite and scathing examination of this most human of activities, and concrete proposals for how our society can produce better readers.
Cognitive neuroscientist Seidenberg digs deep into the science of reading to reveal the ways human beings learn how to read and process language. After describing how humans adapted to form writing, speech, and languages, Seidenberg explores current research into dyslexia and other literacy problems, especially as they pertain to the challenges facing the American education system. Progress in reading is inexorably tied to achievement gaps and differences in socioeconomic status, but Seidenberg circles back to the biological connections among spoken language, dyslexia, and general reading ability. Poverty alone cannot account for the U.S.'s "mediocre showing" in multinational assessments, he says. His major criticism of national reading progress lies in the "culture of education" or the way teachers are trained to approach teaching. Seidenberg turns against the trend of natural "discovery" learning, where he says nothing is really taught, and argues that direct instruction by tested methods is the best way to ensure students consistently learn to read. Seidenberg's analysis is backed up by numerous studies and tables of data. His approach is pragmatic, myth-destroying, and rooted in science and his writing makes for powerful reading.