“When students are struggling and they don’t learn how to read, that then interferes with their ability to learn visually, it interferes with their ability to problem solve, and it interferes with their ability to listen to teachers, so they’re getting further and further behind, which we’ve known but we haven’t really known why,” Burns said. “It turns out that the key is the ability to read, which I think changes our emphasis to, ‘Let’s find these children early, and let’s get them reading—and let’s use neuroscience-based intervention that boosts their capacity to learn to read.'”
If reading skills are improved and the connection between the left hemisphere and frontal lobe strengthens, studies show that not only do reading scores improve, but so do social studies scores, math scores, and science scores.
“If you get reading—and the underlying processes that support reading—in shape so that a child can learn and benefit from classroom instruction, it can boost all academic areas,” said Burns.
Burns emphasized that the process for building these stronger pathways starts at home, and she encouraged parents to talk to their children.
“It’s hard to reach the parents who don’t talk to their kids, because those are the very parents who are working two jobs, who are single-parent homes, who didn’t have a lot of speech in their home when they were little,” Burns said, adding that children from low SES families are exposed to a 32 million-word gap compared to children from a higher SES.
Because the brain is a quantity analyzer and processes more based on receiving more data, this gap can cause serious issues.
“The message we want to get out to parents everywhere is: Talk to your children. Reading is fine, too, read to your children. But I’m not so concerned about reading, because that architecture will build itself once a child learns to read; I’m more concerned about language in general,” Burns said. “Get [children] off the TV, get them away from screen time before two years of age, just talk, talk, talk.”
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