By Allison Espinosa
Reading is an important skill that every child needs to develop but helping that child to develop the skill can be challenging. The human brain is a complex organ that has evolved since the first humans walked the earth. Originally, humans never possessed the ability within the brain to read nor write because our brains were not originally designed to process the written language.
Human beings first communicated with each other through spoken languages. Spoken language evolved at the same time our prehistoric ancestors developed the ability to think abstract thoughts. Abstract thinking is the ability to think about ideas that have been disconnected from when it happened and where it happened. Concrete thinking is the easier because it relates an idea with something that is happening in front of the person at that very moment. The first written language occurred 25,000 – 30,000 BP in the form of pictures. Human beings would create and read information through pictographs for thousands of years. Our brains transformed during these periods to be able to interpret meaningful visual information.
Sometime around 9,000 years ago, humans began drawing symbols onto clay to use as money. These symbols eventually evolved into pictographs, visual representations of a word that were drawn together to convey a meaning. The world’s first alphabet was conceived by the Phoenician’s around 1050 BC. It contained 22 letters and was derived from Egyptian hieroglyphs. The Greeks adopted the Phoenician alphabet and added vowels.
The development of the written languages spread throughout the ancient world through trade routes. Not all cultures developed a written language at the same time. It is important to note every culture has developed language the same way: first through visual representation and then through letters.
But why is it important to understand the history of the written language now? Because the human brain is the reason why a person may have trouble reading and writing. The human brain is malleable, meaning it can change the way it processes and interprets information based on the information it is being presented with. Educators and parents need to understand they actively changing the way a child thinks just by teaching then new skills or interacting with them.
Reading is the interpretation of visual symbols that create a meaningful idea. Grammar, phonics and spelling dictate the many rules of the language a child is asked to read. Writing is the expression of the idea that needs to be read. When students are denied time to develop their spelling, phonics, grammar or writing ability within the classroom they will struggle in learning how to read. Grammar, spelling, reading and writing needs to be taught together in order for the child’s brain to properly learn how to process the information they are asked to read. Unfortunately, due to the rigorous demands of standardized testing, many schools throughout the United States forgo teaching their students the writing unless their students’ writing skills are being tested. The problem with this practice is that by the time the students get to that grade level they are below grade level in reading and writing because the educators were not given the freedom to properly train their students’ brains to process and interpret literary information.