Eight-year-old Evan is one of the brightest children in his third-grade class. He has a wonderful vocabulary and knows everything there is to know about baseball—he can even tell you who played in each of the last ten World Series games and who won.
But when it comes to reading about baseball—or anything else—Evan has a lot of trouble. It takes him a long time to read each word, and even longer to read whole sentences. He often has to guess at how you say a word—and sometimes his guess is wrong. Reading out loud is especially stressful and embarrassing. His teacher recently told Evan's parents that she thinks he might have dyslexia.
Most people assume that part of being smart is being able to read well. About 100 years ago, though, doctors figured out that some people, even some very smart people who do really well at many other things, have trouble learning to read. This difficulty with reading is called dyslexia.
No one is born knowing how to read.
We all have to learn how.
Just about every person starts talking without having to learn how. When you were a baby, just being around people who were talking was enough to get you started talking, too. You didn't have go to talking school or take talking lessons. Human beings' brains are just designed to make talking happen almost automatically.
Reading is different, though. No one is born knowing how to read—we all have to learn how. When you read, your brain has to do a lot of things at once. It has to connect letters with sounds and put those sounds together in the
Then it has to help you put letters, words, and paragraphs together in ways that let you read them quickly and understand what they mean. It also has to connect words and sentences with other kinds of knowledge. When you see c-a-t on a piece of paper, your brain doesn't just have to read the word "cat," it also has to make the connection that "cat" means a furry, four-legged animal that meows.
Why do I have dyslexia?
Dyslexia is sort of an invisible problem. It's not an illness like chicken pox or a cold. In school your teachers can see you working hard, but they can't see all the steps your brain has to take to make sense of the words on the worksheet she gave you to do.
Many kids with dyslexia worry that there is something wrong with their brain. That's a pretty scary thought. Thanks to recent research, though, we have lots of scientific proof that a dyslexic person's brain is normal and healthy.
When you have dyslexia, though, your brain takes longer to make some of these connections, and does it in more steps. It especially has trouble matching the letters you see on the page with the sounds those letters and combinations of letters make. And when you have trouble with that step, it makes all the other steps harder.
Dyslexia isn't rare. You might know other kids in your school who have dyslexia, too. Although dyslexia isn't contagious, sometimes several people in the same family have dyslexia. Older kids and adults can also have dyslexia.
A new way to learn.