Reading is all in the mind's eye

10th January 2014 at 00:00

Fluent reading and accurate spelling is dependent on people being able to create a mental image of a word in their mind's eye - not the shape of it, the actual word.

The shortcut here that will save a fortune and reduce the personal grief of so many families is to ensure that you check whether children are developing this skill in Reception and Year 1 (at the ages of 4-6) and teach them if they are not. Alternatively, simply teach all children to create mental images of words at the same time as they learn phonics. The teaching takes no longer and progress is dramatically faster.

However you teach children, those who naturally progress to creating mental images will be successful. Those who do not make this transition will never become fluent readers and may even develop dyslexic symptoms when under stress.

English is not a perfectly phonetic language - it has homophones, silent letters and many exceptions to the rules - so a mental image of each word together with phonic skills for new words is a great combination. But most of the words our children struggle with they have seen repeatedly. Their only mistake is not to create a mental image of a word after seeing it a couple of times.

Olive Hickmott, Empowering Learning, Hertfordshire.

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