Reading Is Rocket Science: Part 2

Reading Is Rocket Science: Part 2
Josh Clark, Head of School

This post was first published May 26, 2016.

Please do not read this.


Seriously, please stop.


Now you are just being rude!



For most of you, reading the above text was unavoidable. Even as your mind processed its content and understood its intent, you could not help but read it. For a traditional learner, reading itself seems an involuntary process, an innate neurological reflex. However, now trying reading the following:


هل بامكانك قراءة هذا؟

Different experience, huh? Assuming you are not familiar with Arabic, these symbols did not trigger any automatic processes in your brain. You did not involuntarily begin translating symbols into sounds and then piecing them into words, syntax and meaning. Though many of use do not realize it, reading is a veryinvolved process.


Reading Rope Model


Above is an illustration of how our brains create reading comprehension – if you remember from last week, I refer to it as the “Reading Rope Model.” It shows how reading comprehension is a result of two main components – Language Comprehension and Word Recognition – and how each component is further comprised of a series of subtasks. This week, I want to explore these two categories in more detail.


Language Comprehension

Whenever we interact with language, through print or the spoken word, our brain must process the input. From distinguishing between different sounds to using background knowledge to build context, our brains are constantly churning away. As you can see from the illustration, there are a number of subtasks associated with language, and I highlighted a few of my favorites below. You know you are a language nerd when you have “favorite” language processing subtasks.=)


Language Structure – Who is performing the action? Who is receiving the action? What is the main idea versus supporting information?


Verbal Reasoning – Is this literal or figurative? Does she really look like a rose? Is a “cat burglar” a furry kleptomaniac?


Literacy Knowledge – What are your expectations when reading a poem vs a science fiction novel vs a Wikipedia entry?


Word Recognition

When reading, our brains must take 26 symbols that can be combined into over 250 representations of just 40 speech sounds. It is no small feat!


Phonological Awareness – This is a person’s awareness that language can be broken into a series of sounds. This can be done on the sentence, word, syllable, and phoneme level.

Decoding – In the simplest of terms, decoding is the ability to assign a sound to a letter or letter patterns so the word can be pronounced correctly.

Sight Recognition – Because the English language is not without a sense of humor, many common words do not follow the decoding rules. Instead, our brain must recognize these group of letters and immediately match it to a word.


As you can see, reading might be mankind’s most impressive invention.


As adults who love, support, and are amazed by dyslexic learners, I think it is important we have this context.


Reading is hard.


The intelligence, effort, and resilience a Schenck student brings to the reading process is inspiring.