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Inside the first grader's brain

What insights can neuroscience offer parents about the mind of a first grader?

By Hank Pellissier

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Reading help

Learning to read by "sounding out" letters in words is difficult for many first graders, even if their brain's auditory development is excellent. One reason, notes Jeannine Herron, Ph.D., author of Making Speech Visible, is that memorizing the alphabet is misleading, because letter titles — A, B, C, etc. — don't sound precisely like the sounds they represent. For example, the letter "G" has a "J" sound, "H" is way off-base with its "AAACH" pronunciation, and all the vowels can be utilized with more than one sound. This difficulty delays thousands of struggling readers. To circumvent this, Herron recommends teaching first graders to "pay attention to what their mouth is doing" when they learn phonemes.

Photo credit: Obsessive Compulsive Photographer

Hank Pellissier is a freelance writer whose fiction and essays have been been widely published and anthologized. A former columnist for Salon and SF Gate, he is a regular contributor to h+ Magazine.

Comments from readers

"I really love all the information you send me about my 1st grader, she got kindergarten of the year last year and reading and doing awesome, i give you guys alot of the credit for all your info. you send me, please keep it coming. Thanks again. "
"Just hit print above the article and it will show up on one page for you to read or print "
"I am very interested in reading your articles on the Preschooler's and the 1st Grader's brains: would it be possible to send it in 1 document? I can't stand the ads on your website that increase the wait-times every single time I hit "next" to advance to the next page. I don't have time to wait AND read the article. Since I don't have time to wait, I'm just planning on giving up the reading part... but it seems like some good info might be included in this article... Do you have a pdf or some other file that I can read the whole thing uninterrupted? Thank you! "