Right-Brained Reading Preferences

I found my oldest artist son sitting on the floor in our living room reading an adult novel. He was 9 years old. About six months before, we had stopped learning from the book, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, after Lesson 50. He seemed to understand “how to break the code” of reading; now I was just waiting for him to be inspired to read. It never occurred to me to require him to practice after that by reading aloud to me from graded readers. I think it’s because he had such a positive relationship with print; he was always surrounded by books, even though he wasn’t a reader himself. Why wouldn’t he start to read on his own?

Even so, I was surprised at the book he was attempting to read as his first effort. I asked, “Are you understanding that?” He replied, “Enough.” It wouldn’t be until years later, as I researched in translation how my children learned, that I would understand what he meant by “enough.” He is a right-brained learner. These children learn to read in a way that is contradictory to what we’ve all been taught learning to read looks like in school.

He only needed to read “enough” words to catch the visual, which is what right-brained children do when they read anything; translate symbols to pictures in their minds. I wrote an introduction post about that. Right-brained children also prefer to read silently than to read  outloud to someone as they learn to read. That is the subject of one of my earlier posts that gets the most Googled hits, so I thought I would refresh our memories by linking to it again today. It’s called, My Readers Ask: Silent Reading versus Reading Aloud.

I would love to hear more stories about you or your child’s preference for reading outloud or silently, and why!


7 responses to “Right-Brained Reading Preferences

  1. Thanks for writing this, Cindy! It rings true for a couple of my kids too!

  2. SS in the Blue Ridge

    my daughter is an awesome reader out loud, although she doesn’t do it much. She fired me as reader as soon as she could read herself (about 7) because she couldn’t stand the way I didn’t put enough expression, enthusiasm, verve, different voices, etc. in it. I talked to her once about becoming a voice actor, but she said to be an actor she’d have to inhabit the characters, and she didn’t want to do that. I don’t know that she thinks in pictures. I think she thinks in sounds and sensations.

    • I love it, SS! She sounds like a girl who knows what she wants. I also thought my oldest artist son should be a voice actor. He considered it for a while. Thanks for sharing!

  3. My son was never interested in “age-appropriate” reading materials. Still isn’t. He’s familiar with phonics, but never sounds anything out. He either knows the entire word immediately, or asks me to read it. He still very much prefers me to read everything to him, but is able to read by himself when he has to and I’m not available (such as the reading involved in playing video games). I’m so glad for the information Cindy has provided me, because now I realize he’s definitely building a whole-word visual library. I now know that it’s much more valuable to just fulfill the needs he’s expressing to me, and just read aloud to him whenever he wants. I always just read the words to him that he can’t read, or doesn’t want to read. I now realize how very, very valuable this is to him. Much more valuable than him sounding it out. That’s just not how he learns most effectively. Love it!

    • I love how you’ve figured out a lot of things about your son’s process, Sara, by observing so carefully. I do feel there is a legitimate sight word process to how many right-brained children learn to read, based on their visual, pictorial brain preferences. My builder son, who read this way initially, was able to figure out “chunk phonics” later, in his 11 to 13 year time frame, by working with Latin and Greek roots. This is how he finally was able to “see” the parts to words (“Why didn’t you tell me words were like LEGO,” is what he asked me…haha!)

      One of the best “lessons” I learned early on is to just give them what they ask for, as you are doing with his asking you to tell him a word. I did that with spelling with my oldest…no passive-aggressive lessons…I just spelled the word for him. He is my best speller.

      Trust in the process…it’s worked out well for me, but I know it can be difficult if we don’t know there’s other valid ways. That’s why I share what I share! Thanks for sharing, Sara!

  4. I hated reading out loud as a child. I was embarrassed at how my mouth couldn’t seem to catch up with the words I heard clearly in my brain when I read. I preferred reading silently and probably still do for the most part, but my Mom inspired me to learn to read out loud. She read out loud to us so well (in a conversational manner and not at all haltingly) that at about 14 I decided that I would teach myself how to read out loud. No one wanted to listen, but I practiced anyway. I picked “Pilgrims Progress” — I guess because it was enough of a challenge? Now I really do love to read out loud, but I do feel like it’s using a different skill than reading silently and was a whole other level to my reading process.

    • I love how you said that listening to your mom read aloud proficiently was inspiration to you to learn for yourself, Lynne. It gives me courage to continue to do my read alouds as a model. Sometimes I wonder if it might make my emerging reader feel incompetent when I read, but I’ll take courage that it won’t.

      I can see how one would want to read as quickly and easily as it is feeling inside your mind, so I definitely see how reading silently promotes this. It’s true for anyone, really, that reading silently will be more efficient. For me, reading aloud to someone was about sharing the experience with someone else. Plus, seeing the words is how I processed the story best, so though I had to slow down to read aloud, I could still enjoy it. Thanks for sharing, Lynne!

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