Reading is not just a visual processing task. There is so much more involved. Reading is a visual processing task that is also an auditory processing task. We see visual cues that represent sounds and spoken language. So reading is in fact high level de-coding of a visual and auditory code.
There is not just one specialised area in the brain that is dedicated to reading. The visual processing of the code is done in the visual cortex near the back of the brain and the right temporal lobe, while the language processing is in the left temporal lobe. Then we have to remember that we have two eyes and two ears and these, effectively are on opposite sides of the brain. There is a lot of communication that needs to happen in our brains to see and recognise a symbol (letter), link it to the sound it represents and then combine both the visual sequence of the codes with the sound sequence and then remember what the resultant word means. This seems very complicated and it is! Yet, when we are reading we do this in a flash, faster than a millisecond! You see: c a t and your brain tells you what sound each visual symbol represents. You recognise the sequence as being different from: a c t and straight away you know that you have read about a little furry pet!
In Western countries we read across a page from left to right and Hebrew and Arabic are read from right to left. In order to make sense of a line of script and get smooth reading flow both our left and right fields of vision must combine smoothly. (This might be less important for languages where each column is read from top to bottom, rather than reading row by row). When given the choice, many of the children who come to see me, prefer to read columns of words rather than across the page. this way they keep in the same side visual field for longer and don't need to cross the visual field as they read.
We “see” the left field of our vision with our right side of our visual cortex and the right side of our visual field with the left side of our visual cortex. So information from both eyes; but only half of the visual field, goes to each side of the visual cortex. At the same time, our brain’s motor cortex controls muscles on the opposite side of our body; with the left motor cortex controlling the muscles on the right of our body and the right motor cortex controlling the left side of our body. So, just think of it: for our eyes to work together, both sides of our motor cortex in our brain must communicate and work together and to create one fluid field of vision from the two halves, both sides of our visual cortex in our brain must communicate and work well together.
For us to read a line of text across the page we need very good communication between the left and right sides of our brain at an eye-movement level, a “seeing” level and also from the level of interpreting and transferring a “visual code” into a representation of meaningful sounds and language!
So when we teach reading to children, we need to facilitate the communication across the brain. In occupational therapy we have found that using movement which stimulates the vestibular processes and uses coordinated, fun movement across the two sides of the body helps children develop their midline crossing and communication within the brain, even for non-movement processes. As soon as I began combining the occupational therapy approach to vestibular processing and bilateral integration with reading, many of the children made dramatic progress.
In this article I have only mentioned the link to bilateral integration. I will post an article to show you why I found vestibular-stimulating activities also important to reading.
To see GAMES and ideas of how to introduce movement when you teach reading: CLICK HERE