Recently I listened to a webcast presented by Dr. Victoria Molfese, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Interim Associate Dean for Research, Chancellor Professor and Co-Director of Early Development and Learning Lab on the research she and others have been conducting for about forty years on how children develop the ability to read. She joked that even though they have been studying this for forty years they still don’t know the answer; she said they are getting close but they still need answers. She began with the statistic that about 17% of the 4 million children born in the US each year will have difficulties learning to read. She also stated that 85% of the children in the juvenile justice system are illiterate.
So what are the benefits of reading?
Dr. Molfese listed these four benefits: learn what is and what can be; learn skills for careers or professions; provides insight into communication; and allows the reader to be able to access information and expertise. If you are reading this you probably have trouble imagining what it would be like to not be able to read or to have extreme difficulty with reading. The ability to read opens up whole new ways to discover our world. It presents opportunities for human growth and development and learning skills that can enable a person to find a rewarding career or profession.
Dr. Molfese talked about her current research which focused on phonological awareness skills and alphabetic knowledge. Phonological awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate separate sounds within words for example va vs. pa or ba vs ga. Alphabetic knowledge is understanding that sounds of a language are represented in letters and that letters combine to form words. What she has found is that newborn responses to speech predict later reading skills. She stated that intervention, even intensive intervention, has not shown to ever fully bring a child to the developmental level of where fully developed peers are with their reading skills.
To learn more about her research you can access her presentation online at The Nebraska Lectures, Chancellor’s Distinguished Lecture Series The presentation is titled, “Learning to Read: Making Sense of the Evidence.”