Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D
These two experiences illustrate how flexible and adaptable our brain is to accomplish the tasks of reading and writing. Nobody has yet constructed a machine that can read all handwritten addresses on envelopes. Post offices still have to employ human beings to do that. The day such a machine is constructed, a lot of postal employees will lose their jobs. Human beings can decipher these endless variations of strange lines, curves, and loops and send them to the right person and place. Well, most of the time.
The majority of people who went to school upto eighth or ninth grade can read effortlessly, but individuals who have a reading disability know how frustrating reading can be. Reading with comprehension involves a large number of distinct activities.
Our eye takes quick shots of a vast array of curved lines and straight lines at different orientations. After all, letters are nothing but lines at different orientations, curves, and loops that our ancestors arranged in certain ways and gave them specific names and sounds. For example, a capital "B" is a "D" placed on another "D." Cursive letters "b" and "d" both contain the same straight line and a loop positioned in different directions. Once a person has learned to identify letters, he or she can read them in myriad of different fonts and styles. Even if letters are partly erased or faded, one can still read them. It is possible because the brain retains basic "patterns" of the letters from which it can decipher them even when they are distorted, deformed, obscure or presented in an unusual and unfamiliar fashion.
Our brain organizes these lines, loops, and curves with different orientations in a logical context. Look at this sentence, "Call me w en you need something." You instantly know that I meant to write "when." Consider this, "I am not an organixed person." You instantly know that I meant to write, "organized person."
The brain has quite a job in keeping the sequence of letters straight without messing us up. That's how we know what a world of difference three letters, "d," "o," "g," if arranged differently, can make. One combination of these three letters makes the word, "God," and the other one, "Dog."
After all, words are nothing but different combinations of twenty-six letters and five vowels. The words are combined and organized into sentences and the task of a reader is to comprehend the meaning of that sentence which requires previously acquired language and memory. A string of sentences is then organized into meaningful units of a connected discourse which again requires tapping into an enormous set of associations, previously acquired language and memory.
Since we learn to speak before we learn to read,
the meanings of many words are already stored in our
memory. By reading those words, we exercise our
memory and add more meaning and content to already
learned words. By reading we learn new words and
new meanings, and new thoughts. Reading is a
wonderful tool for gathering knowledge and keeping
mentally fit. Keep reading.
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1996, Mind Publications