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McNair Scholars Program

Kristel Williams

She/her

Education: Bachelor of Science in elementary education (May 2010)

McNair Project: The Activation of the Occipito-Temporal and Parieto-Temporal Lobes in the Brain of a Stuggling Reader via Designed Intervention (2009)

Mentor: Laurie Curtis, Ph.D.

Through the use of neuroimaging studies, researchers are finding evidence for neurological differences in the brains of skilled and poor readers.

In the left-hemisphere of the brain, there are two regions identified as being responsible for learning to read: the parieto-temporal and occipito-temporal systems, respectively. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scans reveal that these two systems are under activated in the brains of struggling readers. This research seeks to determine how one can increase activation of these two regions of the brain amongst struggling readers K-2, and it uncovers what types of instructional practices in the classroom can help in this endeavor. A review of literature is included which addresses the following topics: 1) neurobiological signs of reading problems in elementary school children; 2) fluency as a bridge between decoding and text comprehension; and 3) ways in which reading problems can be overcome. The final section of this discussion includes an outline of proposed reading interventions or exercises that help to activate these under-used portions of the brain. For example, reading instruction that includes lots of phonologic opportunities, that is opportunities for a child to sound out words and relate them to printed letters will help increase brain activation Another way to increase activation in these parts of the brain is to focus on improving fluency through repeated oral reading of text by the student, by the teacher, by a tutor to the student, and, if possible, by the child’s parent. fMRI scans have shown that the brains of students who undergo these reading interventions actually look similar, if not identical, to the brains of skilled readers after one year of remediation.

With the high demand for scientifically research-based instruction in schools, the information from this study could be a great tool for educators to use for the enhancement of their classroom reading instruction.