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Manju Banerjee, Ph.D.
Manju Banerjee, Ph.D.

 

Question:

I am an adult who has struggled with books for years. I so desperately want to read, but don’t know where to go for help. I am a visual learner and get distracted easily. I can draw any picture in my head and write poems and stories easily…but I cannot read. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer:

What you are describing is not uncommon and you are not alone. Reading is a really complex process, and while we are programmed to learn language as humans, we are not programmed to read. While most believe that the primary difficulty with reading is phonological awareness, that is, sound-symbol association, we are also learning that visual and auditory attention can play a significant role for some individuals with reading difficulties. Recent research by Dr. Matt Schneps, Director of the Center for Visual Learning at the Harvard-Smithsonian, shows that adjusting the display of print can make a difference. For example, he demonstrates that reading on an iPod (or iPad) where the text has been adjusted to 3 to 4 enlarged words per sentence, made a difference in both reading fluency and comprehension for some readers.

A suggestion to help would be the use of audio books, particularly, with the highlighting feature. The highlighting makes you focus on each word while you hear it being read out loud. Multi-sensory input stimulates different part of the recognition system of our brain and helps with the reading process.

Other resources include:

  • Learning Ally is the largest audio book lender in the country. They provide access to audio books for struggling readers.
  • There is a text-to-speech app called Voice Dream Reader. It will read digital text for you.
  • You might contact the Haskins Lab at Yale to receive more targeted intervention information.
 

Manju Banerjee, Ph.D. | Vice President and Director, Landmark College Institute for Research and Training (LCIRT), Landmark College, Putney, VT
Dr. Banerjee has over 28 years of experience in the field of learning disabilities, AD/HD, and postsecondary education, and is a certified diagnostician and teacher-consultant on learning disabilities. She has published and presented extensively, both nationally and internationally, on topics such as Universal Design for Instruction, disability documentation and accommodations, and technological competencies for postsecondary transition and online learning. She is an editorial board member of the Journal of Postsecondary Education Disability, Professional Advisory Board member to the Learning Disabilities Association of America, and a consultant to Educational Testing Service. She received her doctoral degree from the Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut, on the application of Universal Design to assessment practices.