Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can't, and What Can Be Done About It

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Mark Seidenberg

  • Language at the Speed of Sight
  • Language at the Speed of Sight
    According to a leading cognitive scientist, we've been teaching reading wrong. The latest science reveals how we can do it right.

384 pages
ISBN: 9781541617155

According to leading cognitive scientist, Mark Seidenberg, we've been teaching reading wrong. The latest science reveals how we can do it right.

The way we teach reading is not working, and it cannot continue. We have largely abandoned phones-based reading instruction, despite research that supports its importance for word recognition. 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. And while we press children to develop large vocabularies because we think being a good reader means knowing more words, studies have found that a large vocabulary is only an indication of better pattern recognition.

In Language at the Speed of Sight, internationally renowned cognitive scientist Mark Seidenberg explains that understanding the science of reading is more important than ever: for us, and for our children. Seidenberg helps us do so by drawing on cutting-edge research in machine learning, linguistics, and early childhood development. As Seidenberg shows, the disconnect between science and education is a major factor in 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. By building on science's insights, we can improve how our children read, and take real steps toward solving the inequality that illiteracy breeds.

Language at the Speed of Sight offers an erudite and scathing examination of this most human of activities, and concrete proposals for how our society can produce better readers. Essential reading for parents, educators, policy makers, and all others who want to understand why so many fail to read, and how to change that.

"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."
- Michael S. Roth, Wall Street Journal

"Seidenberg reviews the latest science on reading and makes an impassioned plea for putting this knowledge to use."
- Scientific American

"Few works of science ever achieve Italo Calvino's six qualities of our best writing: lightness, exactitude, visibility, quickness, multiplicity and consistency. Mark Siedenberg's new book on the science of reading and its profound implications for educational practice achieves just that. With both wit and rigor, he pulls no punches as he lays bare both the egregious errors that persist in the teaching of reading, and their antidote in knowledge of the reading brain. 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 for children and society, would be significantly reduced."
- Maryanne Wolf, Professor & Director of the Centre for Reading and Language Research, Tufts University, Boston. Author of Proust and the Squid