Letters from the July 17, 2004, issue of Science News

Readers on reading

Other librarians and I regularly discuss illiterate, functional, aliterate, and avid readers. I am pleased that research has begun into what happens in readers’ brains (“Words in the Brain: Reading program spurs neural rewrite in kids,” SN: 5/8/04, p. 291: Words in the Brain: Reading program spurs neural rewrite in kids). The study as presented, however, doesn’t seem to control for the individual attention given by the tutors, a factor that may have influenced the results. I hope this research continues. Teachers and librarians would find it invaluable.

Anne Holcomb Paradise

Gary, Ind.

I was saddened to read the article. What is so sad is that after all these years, phonetics is not uniformly taught to all students to facilitate reading. On the other hand, it is good that scientific evidence confirms that which commonsense observation has demonstrated for years. Perhaps these studies will promote what should have been done decades ago, which is to use phonetics to teach children how to read.

Perry Radoff

Houston, Texas

The conditions of the experiment—”daily . . . instruction in letters and combinations of letters that represent speech sounds called phonemes . . . development of fluency in reading words, oral reading of stories, and spelling”—exactly describe the second-grade curriculum in my school 60 years ago, when everyone learned to read. What happened between 1944 and now? I guess we just forgot.

Beth Kurtz

New York, N.Y.

Is it possible that the results for the 6-to-9-year-old underachieving children had as much or more to do with the “50 minutes of daily, individual instruction” as with the techniques used? Children of that age crave closeness and attention. Personal and individualized social contact seems to have a positive effect all across the brain in children, from skills to emotional development. Your article didn’t specify that the reading technique used was the key variable in the results.

Daniel Putman

New London, Wis.

The study addressed this issue by including a control group.—B. Bower

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