According to a leading cognitive scientist, we've been teaching reading wrong. The latest science reveals how we can do it right.
In 2011, when an international survey reported that students in Shanghai dramatically outperformed American students in reading, math, and science, President Obama declared it a "Sputnik moment": a wake-up call about the dismal state of American education. Little has changed, however, since then: over half of our children still read at a basic level and few become highly proficient. Many American children and adults are not functionally literate, with serious consequences. Poor readers are more likely to drop out of the educational system and as adults are unable to fully participate in the workforce, adequately manage their own health care, or advance their children's education.
In Language at the Speed of Sight, internationally renowned cognitive scientist Mark Seidenberg reveals the underexplored science of reading, which spans cognitive science, neurobiology, and linguistics. As Seidenberg shows, the disconnect between science and education is a major factor in America's chronic underachievement. How we teach reading places many children at risk of failure, discriminates against poorer kids, and discourages even those who could have become more successful readers.
Children aren't taught basic print skills because educators cling to the disproved theory that good readers guess the words in texts, a strategy that encourages skimming instead of close reading. Interventions for children with reading disabilities are delayed because parents are mistakenly told their kids will catch up if they work harder. Learning to read is more difficult for children who speak a minority dialect in the home, but that is not reflected in classroom practices. By building on science's insights, we can improve how our children read, and take real steps toward solving the inequality that illiteracy breeds.
Both an expert look at our relationship with the written word and a rousing call to action, Language at the Speed of Sight is essential for parents, educators, policy makers, and all others who want to understand why so many fail to read, and how to change that.
About the Author
Mark Seidenberg is the Vilas Research Professor and Donald O. Hebb Professor in the department of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a cognitive neuroscientist who has studied language, reading, and dyslexia for over three decades. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
"In Language at the Speed of Sight, [Seidenberg] develops a careful argument, backed by decades of research, to show that the only responsible way to teach children to read well is to build up their abilities to connect reading with speech and then to amplify these connections through practice, developing skillful behavioral patterns hand in hand with the neurological networks that undergird them...Every teacher of young children as well as those who train them should read this book."--Wall Street Journal
"Seidenberg reviews the latest science on reading and makes an impassioned plea for putting this knowledge to use."--Scientific American
"The neuroscience underlying [Seidenberg's] findings is complex, of course, but [he] does not often fall into thickets of technicality...his discussions are clear and accessible.... A worthy primer on the science of comprehending language."--Kirkus
"Few works of science ever achieve Italo Calvino's six qualities of our best writing: Lightness, exactitude, visibility, quickness, multiplicity, and consistency. Mark Seidenberg's new book achieves just that. If every educator, parent, and policy maker would read and heed the content of this book, the rates of functional illiteracy, with all their destructive sequelae, would be significantly reduced."--Maryanne Wolf, author of Proust and the Squid
"A world-renowned expert explains the science of reading with clarity and wit--anyone who loves to read will be fascinated, and teachers will absolutely devour this book."--Daniel Willingham, author of Why Don't Students Like School?
"Language at the Speed of Sight is an incisive tour through the fascinating science of reading. From cuneiform to dyslexia to the future of literacy, Seidenberg is a master guide who--lucky for us--is as gifted a writer as he is a scientist."--Benjamin Bergen, author of What the F
"Seidenberg...unravels the science of reading with great flair. He is the ideal guide - and it turns out that we need a guide to reading, even though we've been doing it most of our lives."--Washington Post
"Cognitive neuroscientist Seidenberg digs deep into the science of reading to reveal the ways human beings learn how to read and process language.... Seidenberg's analysis is backed up by numerous studies and table of data. His approach is pragmatic, myth-destroying and rooted in science--and his writing makes for powerful reading."--Publishers Weekly
"No technologically advanced society exists without reading. This is the remarkable story of why and how it all works. From David Letterman's irony to posited Sumerian patent trolls, the writing is lively, informative, and supremely entertaining."--Daniel J. Levitin, best-selling author of This Is Your Brain on Music and The Organized Mind
"Have you picked up the idea that reading is something that kids 'just pick up' and shouldn't be rushed into it, or that learning to read is something different from mastering something separate called 'comprehension, ' or that a whole book about reading would be dull? Language at the Speed of Sight will disabuse you of all three notions and more-pick it up and marvel at how hard it will be to put it down."--John McWhorter, author of Word on the Move and Talking Back, Talking Black