In addition to reading words accurately and quickly, a skilled reader understands what he reads. Reading comprehension develops gradually, so that over time, the balance tips from learning mostly from listening to learning through reading. Thus, the beginning reader learns much more from what he hears than from what he reads in print. This gap narrows in the primary grades as the child becomes a better reader. By seventh grade, the balance begins to favor reading. At this point, the reader is set to have mature reading comprehension. Gradually the student gains more and more from reading, that by the time he is in college, most knowledge and vocabulary is acquired through reading. A large vocabulary is a key element in facilitating reading comprehension. In turn, reading itself is a powerful influence in developing a child's vocabulary. How does learning from listening to a person speak compare to learning from reading? Books offer almost three times as many interesting or complicated words compared to even the most educated speakers. Books for adult readers have about 50 rare words for every 1,000 words. The spoken language by college graduate has only about 17 rare words per 1,000 spoken words. Children's books too have 50 percent more rare words in them than does the conversation of college graduates. Simply relying on alternatives, ranging from even the most sophisticated conversations to the very popular YouTube videos to increase vocabulary fall short of what can be gained through reading. You may ask, what is the process of learning to read like for the dyslexic readers? For dyslexic readers, the process of learning to read and of becoming a skilled reader is slow. Benchmarks are significantly delayed. At the beginning, difficulties linking letters to sounds interfere with learning to read. Over time, as the dyslexic learns to read, she too begins to build up her neural pathways linking the way the word looks and sounds and what it means. Unfortunately, the dyslexic reader may correctly connect only a few of the letters in the word to their sounds. As a result, the neural connections for that word are imperfect and incomplete. Later on, when she comes across that printed word again, she struggles to recognize it. Part of the process of becoming a skilled reader is creating more detailed and robust linkages representing each of the elements making up a word. Dyslexic readers generally require many more exposures to a printed word over a much longer period of time before the neural pathways are well-developed and come together each time they encounter that word. In some instances, these connections continue to be less than robust, impeding the ready retrieval of words. As result, even when dyslexic readers are able to decode words accurately, they are still not quick in their reading of these words. As a further consequence of their imperfect connections. Linking each of the elements of the word, the way the word looks, the way it sounds, and what it means. Dyslexic readers often have to continue to rely on context to get to a word's meaning. This means that the identification of the word is limited to that particular context and cannot be generalized to other situations because a dyslexic reader often gets to the meaning without having fully first decoded the word. The linkages between the way the word looks, the way it sounds and what it means are not reinforced, and remain imperfect. Next time he comes across that word, it is often as if he has never seen it before. He will have to go through the same exercise of using context to get to the word's meaning. Context also explains a common puzzling symptom of dyslexia. Many dyslexic readers complain of difficulties in reading the little words such as in, on, the, that, and and. The parents of a nine year-old dyslexic boy, Noah, described his peculiar difficulty with reading small words while at the same time, reading without apparent hesitation longer, more typical words such as museum and Metropolitan Opera and shorter words representing things such as tree, bat, etc. Our son, a baseball fan, when in third grade could read Metropolitan Stadium. But the word on gave him real difficulties. Since dyslexic readers rely so much on context it is often difficult to figure out a small so-called function word who's meaning cannot be gleaned from the context. For example, a ball could be on, over, or under the table, which makes it difficult to decide which of these choices is the one the author intended. For the same reason a dyslexic might be able to read words such as tree and bad, because they represent concrete objects that can be predicted from the text as well as visualized. The small function words are so neutral that it is difficult for the dyslexic child says find something in the text to help him anchor and remember the words. What are clues to look for that your child may be dyslexic? Following a Sea of Strengths model of dyslexia here's a sampling. In kindergarten and first grade signs of weaknesses in reading include, failure to understand that worlds come apart. For example, that bad boy can be pulled into bad and boy and later on that the word bad can be broken down still further and sound it out as [inaudible]. Inability to learn to associate letters with sounds for example, being unable to connect the letter B with the bush sound. Reading errors that show no connection to the sounds of the letters for example the word big is read his coat. The inability to read common one syllable words or the sounds out and even the simplest of words such as dog, cat, hop, nap. Complaints about how hard reading is, or running away, or hiding when it is time to read. Signs of strengths and higher level thinking processes early on include curiosity, a great imagination, the ability to figure things out, eager embrace of new ideas, getting the gist of things, of good understanding of new concepts, a large vocabulary for age, enjoying solving puzzles and talent at building models. I want to note the above is only a sample of weaknesses and strengths here in kindergarten and first grade. For more details, signs of weaknesses and strengths, both the different ages and greatest, including young adults and adults, please see Overcoming Dyslexia, Second Edition, Pages 142-148. It's funny because despite always having reading and processing issues reading was always my favorite thing. In fact one of the very frustrating things about being dyslexic but not officially having a diagnosis starting from first grade all the way through middle school basically almost every other year I would go from being in the most advanced reading group to the worst reading group. Because a lot of teachers didn't quite know what to do with me because I might be really enjoyed reading but if I had to read out loud, maybe didn't sound properly, I wasn't a great speller. For me reading was both oddly enough like an outlet and a wonderful way to just immerse myself in something else, but at the same time, I remember coming home and being really upset with my mom because I overheard a teacher very early on saying, essentially I was in the dumb reading group. I'd have moments like that but then by the time I got to fifth grade that teacher wanted to put me in such a special reading group that there were only two of us and we're reading things like advanced chapter books while everybody else was reading different books. That it was a very mixed bag for me in terms of reading. Then in terms of how I viewed myself as now an adult and somebody who basically made a life out of reading and writing, I can put things in perspective that maybe at the time I couldn't which is, as a kid you're constantly absorbing how teachers and adults and others do look up to are responding to you. I think even though I understood things and at times I was reading very well the way that it was coming out wasn't how I understood it and that disconnect, was not great for my self-esteem and self-worth. Well, I had a wonderful parents and a mom who really believed in me and great teachers who were very encouraging and nurturing and patient with me. I guess there's something in there about great teachers and what they can do for people self-worth and self-esteem.