Why Some Kids Struggle

In the “Foundations of Literacy” module, we learned about the complexity of the reading brain. Many parts of the brain have to work together in order to learn to read and every brain is a little different. Even though every brain has the same parts, there are small differences in the size of important brain structures. There are also differences in how the wiring links these structures together. Each brain is networked together in a unique way. In such a complex system, it comes as no surprise that some children have difficulty learning to read.

About 1 in 10 children have dyslexia, a learning disability that causes children to struggle learning to read. Children can have dyslexia even when they have high quality reading instruction. Dyslexia is characterized by difficulties with sounding out words, accurately recognizing words, and fluently reading text. Most people with dyslexia also have poor spelling skills.

Dyslexia is a condition in which small differences in brain wiring affect children’s ability to read. Children with dyslexia are not less intelligent and it isn’t something a child will naturally grow out of. Nor is it that the brain simply reverses letters like ‘b’s and ‘d’s or mixes up left and right.

Struggling readers often suffer from considerable stress, worry, and concern. For young, struggling readers, it is important to recognize their difficulties as early as possible. Early detection allows us to support children before they become discouraged, before their struggles overshadow their talents and strengths, and before they fall too far behind their peers. Remember when we talked about plasticity? Plasticity is the brain’s ability to change. If we can identify struggling readers early, when their brains are highly plastic, we have more opportunities to offer them enriched learning environments and targeted reading intervention programs. Rich environments can help strengthen the brain networks for reading.

  • Dyslexia
    a learning disability characterized by poor spelling and difficulties with word recognition and word decoding. It is unrelated to intelligence, motivation, or school experience
    Explicit instruction
    systematic and direct teaching that takes into account students’ prior knowledge
    Phonics-based reading instruction
    teaching focused on how letters represent sounds and how words can be sounded out by knowing letter-sound correspondences
    the brain’s ability to change as a result of experience