For most people learning to read is just like learning to do any other skill. Beginning readers:

            Left HemisphereRight Hemisphere
 1) see the letters and hear the sounds
 2) attach the sounds to the letters
3) practice putting sounds to groups of
letters as words
4) create scripts that tell them what
the words mean — turn them into sight
Beginners practice a word until it is stored in the word app storage area (red, on left) for easy access. Dyslexia researchers call this the “word form area”.

Pretty soon, most people can skip the first two steps. When they practice enough to turn the words into sight words, the words are stored in the word app storage area. The beginning readers will have enough brain power left over to read fluently, and get sucked into the book.

Fluent readers go to the word app storage area (red, on left) to quickly retrieve a word when they are reading.

Dyslexics Don’t Switch to the Left Hemisphere

Dyslexics have a hard time storing the words they are learning in the word app storage area.

But because reading uses the sight system to interpret sounds, there are more chances for problems and confusion. Some people — people who are dyslexic — have a very hard time learning the scripts needed to read. Researchers think that dyslexia can be a problem with any of the areas of the brain used in reading, or the connections between them. That explains why dyslexia looks different in every person who has it.

One of the main problems is that dyslexics’ fast, efficient left-hemisphere has a hard time learning the scripts to recognize a word on sight. Your brains don’t switch from using the right side to sound the word out each time, to using just the expert left side where written-word scripts are stored. You have to sound the words out many more times before they become sight words. This process takes more time and more brain energy. It is a slow and tiring way to read.

So there is another characteristic that can be assigned to right or left brain hemispheres:

           Left HemisphereRight Hemisphere
 Fluent ReaderDyslexic Reader

“If you are dyslexic, your eyes work fine, your brain works fine, but there is a little short circuit in the wire that goes between the eye and the brain. Reading is not a fluid process.”

– Caitlyn Jenner, Olympic Gold Medalist


Armstrong, Thomas. 2003. “Coming to Grips with the Musculature of Words.” In The Multiple Intelligences of Reading and Writing: Making the Words Come Alive.
Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.

Beilock, Sian. 2010. Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal about Getting It Right When You Have To. 1st Free Press hardcover ed. New York: Free Press.

Jenner, Caitlyn. n.d. “Caitlyn Jenner Quotes.” BrainyQuote. Accessed November 9, 2017a.

Nicolson, Rod, and Angela Fawcett. 2008. Dyslexia, Learning, and the Brain. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Shaywitz, Sally E. 2003. Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level. 1st ed. New York: Knopf.

Wood, Tracey. 2006. Overcoming Dyslexia for Dummies. – For Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Wolf, Maryanne. 2007. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. 1st ed. New York, N.Y.: Harper.

Published by Amy Law

Amy Law is a science geek. She feels about science the way some people feel about music, or art, or sports – a total and complete emotional connection. She thinks in science. For Amy, there’s nothing better than helping people see the beauty of science as she does. She loves to untangle a complicated subject into its parts, explaining it so that anybody can understand what’s happening. Let her show you her world...

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