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Cognitive Skills and Reading

Cognitive Skills and Reading

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BrainWare Safari: Cognitive Skills Development and Learning to Read

Peter Kline, M.A.
Nancy Meyer -Brown, M.S.


Learning to read well requires that the basic processes of decoding and comprehending become automatic so that they do not have to be thought about consciously. Readers who must decode letters and words consciously are distracted by the process and are thus unable to concentrate on the meaning of what they are reading.

The cognitive skills that support decoding, such as attention, visual discrimination, visual sequential processing, immediate memory and working memory, must be automatic for successful reading. Many struggling readers are deficient in these skills. But despite the necessity of these skills, they are not taught in schools. In fact, the primary challenge in improving the teaching of reading is to close the gap between what the research tells us is needed for struggling readers and what is actually provided in our schools.1 The fact that cognitive skills are not explicitly taught in schools does not mean that they can not be taught. For over half a century, techniques to develop basic cognitive skills have been known and used in various clinical therapies but haven’t been practical to deliver in the classroom. Today, digital game-based learning is making the delivery of cognitive training programs viable in a classroom setting.

BrainWare Safari is a comprehensive cognitive skills development program presented in a video – game format. Students have experienced dramatic increases in their cognitive skills after using the program for 11 weeks. This paper discusses how reading skills can be improved in struggling readers, as well as normal and gifted students by improving their underlying cognitive skills. Cognitive skill improvement can help any child learning to read. Even older students who are having trouble reading will be able to rapidly make significant improvements in their literacy.


  • 85% of children diagnosed with learning difficulties have primary problems with reading and related language skills.
  • Reading difficulties are neuro-developmental in nature.
  • Neuro-developmental problems do not go away, but a student or adult can still learn or progress in school nonetheless.
  • Most children can be taught reading and explicit strategies for success in school.
  • More than 8 million students in grades 4-12 are struggling readers.
  • Many older students can read, but cannot understand what they read. (US DOE, 2003)