Can Reading Be "Easier" than Speaking for Children with Language Disabilities?
I was recently speaking to the principal of a school for children with learning disabilities. She was talking about a seven year old girl who had been a student in her school since she was about four years of age. During that time, the director said their focus had been on developing the child's spoken language and holding off on literacy since "there was no way to expect her to read until her spoken language skills improved."
The concern that the principal showed for the child is laudatory. And her thinking was totally in line with accepted practices. For most children, speaking precedes reading. Further, the skills of spoken language seem to be prerequisites for being able to master reading. That seems to be why children with problems in speaking have high rates of failure in learning to read. This dependency relationship is sometimes expressed as "written language is parasitic on spoken language."
But is the situation as straightforward as we have been led to believe? Significantly the answer is NO. If we are willing to delve a bit deeper into the situation, then we find that the relationships are far different, more interesting and more optimistic than is generally thought to be the case.
At this point, you are likely and rightly to be thinking -- What is the basis for this counter-intuitive assertion?