Cognitive Skills are Major Factors in Reading Ability
Digital Promise, a nonprofit organization working at the intersection of researchers, entrepreneurs, and educators, recently published a report entitled Supporting Research-Based Personalization for Reading Success. The report summarizes recent research on the factors that influence a child’s ability to learn to read. Many of those factors would not have appeared in a similar report even a few years ago.
While many educators still see reading as a matter of decoding and fluency practice, perhaps with a dollop of vocabulary thrown in, the reading process is far more complex. The Digital Promise report cites cognitive skills, social-emotional learning, and student background information, in addition to traditional language and literacy skills, as essential for reading.
Among the cognitive skills identified in the report as being essential to learning to read are Attention, Visual Processing, Auditory Processing, Working, Short-Term and Long-Term Memory, and Sensory Integration. Reasoning skills are also identified in the Language and Literacy category. We find it gratifying to compare these skills to those built into BrainWare SAFARI cognitive skills training software.
|Cognitive Skills Essential for Reading||Developed in BrainWare?|
As the report points out, students come to our classrooms with very different levels of these skills. Strong cognitive skills will make the process of learning to read much easier. Weaker skills make the process harder.
While the report starts to clarify the role of these cognitive skills, it does not go much beyond surface level connections. For example, it is obvious that poor attention skills can mean that a student does not attend to information being presented by the teacher, including explanations and examples of decoding. But the connection between attention and decoding is much deeper than that. Attention is integral to the decoding process itself. If the student’s mind goes wandering off halfway through the word, he or she may have to start all over again. This will be exacerbated if working memory is limited, since the student may only be able to hold the sounds of the word (if that) in his/her mind, leaving no room for relating the word to prior knowledge or what has come before, processes essential for comprehension.
Even with this limitation, however, the report should help educators begin to understand the complex nature of learning to read and the role of multiple cognitive and other processes that must be smoothly functioning and well integrated. We’ll be fascinated to see how educators put this information to work.
A white paper we developed a number of years ago delves more deeply into cognitive skills and reading,