IN MONTH 4 of learning to read with Read Right methodology, my now 6-year-old grandson Tyler and I began using books that were still predictable, but less so than those we’d used in Months 1-3. Students placed in less predictable books have advanced to the stage where they begin to rely less and less on memory to “read” (actually, recite) and more on the other available information: the reader’s knowledge of language, his background knowledge relative to the text , the role of punctuation, and the sounds associated with the stable consonants of the alphabet. At this stage, developing readers fall in and out of authentic reading, to the extent the tutor often cannot tell if they are reading, reciting, or doing a combination of the two.
This “process” of figuring out how to perform complex tasks is called procedural learning. “Reading” is not a simplistic act of decoding individual words. Decoding is no more than naming words (see Researcher Cathy Price’s work, University London College, 2003). The act of reading–or, reconstructing meaning from text–results from highly complex neural activity, requiring instantaneous integration of multiple brain systems. No one can tell a student how to do this complex work; it must be figured out by the implicitly operating brain. Read Right creates an environment that compels the brain to figure it all out. The methods simply unlock the power of the brain to do what brains do—that’s why we get the results we do. In just four months, Tyler was, indeed, “figuring out” how to reconstruct meaningful messages from print through implicitly operating complex neural processing.
IN MONTH 5, Tyler became less insistent that he hated reading, even though the books became harder! As he began to make corrections spontaneously, his confidence grew. He demonstrated that he was, indeed, figuring out how to use all available resources to help anticipate an author’s meaning. The brain’s anticipatory systems are a seldom discussed yet essential component of efficiently operating human brains. Anticipation (often associated with “predicting,” but far more accurate and efficient) creates the environment for the “auto” in the term “automatic.” Automaticity cannot happen if the human brain does not anticipate. Imagine what life would be like if, every time an individual wanted to walk across a room, they had to stop and think about all of the decisions relative to muscle movement and balance that must happen for them to complete the act. They’d likely move at the pace of sloths! Instead, without conscious thought, virtually all of us jump out of our chairs and walk to dinner. Those are anticipatory systems at work. Tyler was beginning to read because his brain had figured out a lot about how to use anticipatory systems efficiently to reconstruct an author’s meaning. Anticipatory systems make it possible to reconstruct a printed message using minimal information from the text! Consider this: Much more than we can imagine is going on in the brain, behind the eyes, when excellent reading occurs.
IN MONTH 6, Tyler started reading upper Grade 1 books on his own, with little to no support. In fact, when told I’d read a new book to him first, he would beat me to the punch, showing off that he could read the book without my help.
Tyler is a bright boy. Even though he’s just six, his Read Right tutoring will continue until he reads excellently, each and every time he reads. His vocabulary and understanding of concepts are sufficient to understand Grade 2 books, so that is where he will finish tutoring.
Once Read Right students become excellent readers at whatever grade-level their current knowledge base allows, they remain excellent readers for life. An excellent reader is free to “read to learn,” and no longer needs any help with reading.
Recently, I asked Tyler how he feels about reading now. His mother heard the question and gave me the definitive answer: He eagerly reads now without hesitation, an extra 20 minutes a day every day. He does it because it’s fun and he loves it.
Becoming an excellent reader, whereby the individual understands virtually everything they read and reads aloud as naturally as they talk, should be the goal of every reading program. Read Right is designed to produce reading excellence.