Is Ear Reading Really a Thing?
A hallmark of dyslexia is an inconsistency between a child’s reading level and oral language level. Often, dyslexic students are highly verbal; talkative, inquisitive, articulate, and have amazing vocabularies!
One of my all-time favorite students who happened to be dyslexic had the most amazing vocabulary as a young student, he still does today! He would hear a new word used in the context of a book or adult conversation and immediately add it to his repertoire. He loved to experiment with interesting words and would find ways to weave them into every day conversation with me. I will never forget the day he learned the word nefarious from a podcast he was listening to. He was instantly enchanted by this interesting, dark word. Over the course of the next few days, I saw him create the context for this word to be dropped in his peer conversations. He told a friend about a conspiracy theory that involved a nefarious suspect. Being a history genius, he related the word nefarious to a comment about the atrocities of Nazi, Germany. Not only was his interest in advanced vocabulary evident to me, but his ease with understanding and application of it always astounded me.
This splinter between a student’s oral language level and reading level means that children with dyslexia can comprehend books that they hear at a much higher level than they can read.
To continue fostering growth and development of oral language skills, including vocabulary and the understanding of literary syntax, dyslexic students need to be exposed to books at their oral comprehension level, or ear-reading level – rather than being limited only to the books that they can eye-read independently.
Imagine if I had only allowed my student access to books that were at his independent reading level? Since the root of dyslexia is difficultly reading fluently, this would have limited him to books that were far below his grade level, interest level, and level of intelligence. Also, consider how this impacts a child’s self-esteem, when all their friends are reading Harry Potter and they are stuck with Frog and Toad.
It is crucial for parents and teachers to supplement what students can read with literature they can listen to. It is important to not only embrace ear reading, but to support it. Listening to books is an approach that focuses on giving diverse learners access to content – it levels the playing field. Audio books allow students exposure and experience with vocabulary, literary language, and content that they need to keep growing and developing.
It is important that students, especially students with dyslexia, continue receiving explicit phonics instruction and fluency practice that will help their eye reading catch up with their ear reading.