Saturday, March 20, 2010

Crossing the Midline

Crossing the midline refers to an imaginary line which runs down the center of the body and the ability to crossover with opposite appendages ie hands, feet.  Sound simple and confusing?  Think of the standard windmill exercise of touching the right hand to the left foot and vice versa.  That would be a classic example of crossing the midline.  This crossing the midline stuff is important for the brain in reading.

The brain is divided into two spheres, left side and right side with a sort of  bridge between the two called a corpus collosum, which wires everything together.  The real kicker is the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body while the left side of the brain controls the right side.  Add to the mix that we as humans seem to favor one side of our brain over the other.  You may have heard the phrase "left brain dominant" or "right brain dominant".  This refers to how an individual is influenced by the side of their brain which for whatever reason, is strongest.  Here's how it breaks down:

Left Side                                                                        Right Side


logic                                                                              feeling

details                                                                            sees the bigger picture

facts                                                                               imagination                                                                        

words                                                                             symbols

language                                                                         images

past/present                                                                    present/future

math                                                                               philosophy

science                                                                           religion

comprehension                                                               understand meaning

knowing                                                                          believes

acknowledges                                                                 appreciates

order/pattern                                                                  spacial perception

object names                                                                  object function

reality based                                                                    fantasy based


Friday, March 19, 2010

Patty Cake Patty Cake

Remember nursery rhymes?  Did you know they are a vitally important element in teaching a child to read?   Neither did I but the National Institute of Health made it their business to find out.

Back in 1997 Congress charged the NIH with the responsibility of finding out how a human child learns to read.  Pretty weighty stuff, huh?  Why did Congress get involved in finding out how kids learn to read?  Because, my dear friends, the United States of America hit the wall and it wasn't pretty.

We as a nation fell to the bottom of the heap on the world scale of literacy.  Yep, hard to believe but believe it because it is the ugly truth.  One of the richest, at that point of time anyway, countries on earth with guaranteed free education for all had quickly turned into a nation of reading dunces.  The Powers That Be weren't too happy about this sad state of affairs. It was embarrassing.  It was dangerous.  After all, how could the USA remain a global super power if its general population was illiterate?

It makes for fascinating reading:

What the NIH surprisingly found out was this:  a child must be able to hear every sound within a spoken word.  These sounds are called phonemes.  Nursery rhymes, it turns out, are a sort of aerobic work out for the ear and brain to connect with phonemes, developing something called phonemic awareness.  Without it, a child doesn't stand a chance.

So start clapping.  Start singing.  Start reading nursery rhymes the minute they are born.  Babies love the sing song sound of nursery rhymes.  Mothers naturally talk to their infants in a sing song voice, no matter what the language.  Get with it.  Don't let Barney do all the work.

If your child is older, don't worry.  There are many rhyming games to play, starting with the very basic.  You say "Bat",   I say "Hat".  Keep going until you are blue in the face.  Rhyme everything.

Clap apart words.  Clapping sets up a child to hear syllables.  We need to hear syllables to help us sound out new words.  Get clapping.  Clap the child's name.  Everyone's and anything's name.  Clap clap clap.

And get your child a hearing test.

If you have a child prone to ear and sinus infections, they may have missed out hearing words clearly and consistently during crucial developmental stages.  It's not the end of the world. Bring your concerns to your doctor and do not take "No" for an answer.  The goal is to rule out the obvious.

Speech pathologists and audiologists are specialists which deal specifically with these challenges. If you are without health insurance, check local school districts and county clinics.  It is vital to get any hearing and/or speech problem fixed as soon as possible. There are also computer programs which target phonemic awareness in a game format.

Let's ReCap

#1  Nursery Rhymes.  Lots and lots of nursery rhymes.
#2  Rhyming games.
#3 Clapping games.

Crying Your Eyes Out?

If you have landed on this site it probably is because your child's teacher has informed you that your darling, the light of your life, is woefully behind in reading and most probably will need to repeat the school year.

 And you are heartbroken, consumed by a pain the likes of which you have never experienced.

 You are probably asking yourself what's wrong with your child and what did you do wrong? Was there more you could have done? Did you read the wrong books? Not enough books? Too much television? Not enough educational television? Is your child, gasp, sputter, choke.....stupid?

Relax, take a deep breath and listen very have done nothing wrong. There is less than a 10% chance your child has a learning difficulty. Unless you are an educator current on the latest research, there is nothing you could have done to prevent what is happening to your child, namely they are not catching on to learning to read.

 Well, let's fix that, shall we?

Or maybe you have a child who is showing an early interest in reading and you are not sure of what exactly to do.  Or not do.  That's okay.  The process is essentially the same.  Let's get started.