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[Susan notes:

Some excellent advice for parents and teachers who want their kids to be readers.]

Published in Philadelphia Inquirer

To the editor

While we're "Rewiring the brain for better reading skills" (news article, June 25), we should be aware of the fact that in 1840 we and Scotland were the two most literate nations on Earth. Many "one-room" schoolhouses had 250-or-so kids headed by just one teacher and two assistants who helped the older help the younger teach themselves the basic skills.

In 1950, a survey of 10,000 British adults disclosed not one single case of "word blindness," i.e. dyslexia.

At the same time, virtually every child in both Great Britain and Japan taught himself or herself to read before entering school. Many, or most, in America did so as well.

But then, in the late 1950s, television and, later, Sesame Street arrived; 80 percent of the parents promptly gave up reading to their kids and have themselves read many fewer books, magazines and newspapers ever since. They're setting a very bad example.

The schools then took over; now just one-third of high-school seniors are competent readers. Dyslexia is sweeping the land. Brain-science is thought to be the answer.

The solution: Read aloud to kids from age two onward. Let them watch what we're doing and then help them say the words with us or right after us. Never use flash cards or put them on the spot to read a word or sentence out loud alone.

Read aloud to every class every day using interesting material, such as the sports pages. Set up groups of four reading in unison from fourth grade on, which is when the brain is clearly ready to roll inside an academic institution.

Robert E. Kay, M. D.

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