It's now possible to predict a child's reading level years in advance 4 years ago

It's now possible to predict a child's reading level years in advance

By measuring brainwaves, it is possible to predict what a child's reading level will be years in advance.

Researchers Sarah Laszlo and Mallory Stites from Binghamton University in New York, measured the brain activity of children and then compared it to their school report cards, their vocabulary and other signs of reading success two years later. The pair found that brain activity was different in children who showed reading success in later years than in children that did not.

Laszlo, an associate professor of psychology says the results are particularly valuable for children who struggle with reading,

"Your brain is what allows you to do everything, from maths to designing buildings to making art. If we look at what the brain is doing during reading, it is a really good predictor of how reading will develop.

The thing that is really valuable about this is that once kids starting having trouble with reading, they start needing extra help, which can be hard and stigmatising for the child and often not effective.

By using long-range predictions about success, we can give them the extra help they need before they fall behind."

The study asked children to read a list of words silently to themselves. Every so often they would come across their own name to make sure they were understanding the text and paying attention. Children that had better school report cards tended to show different patterns of activity during both phonological (sound) and semantic (meaning) processing,

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"Phonological processing is the ability to sound things out and semantic processing is knowing what words mean. Like being able to link the word fish with a slimy creature that swims underwater."

Other factors were included when measuring the reading success of students, such as their teachers, their parents' encouragement, their age and the amount that they read at home.

The pair are currently working on a paper to record the findings from the first four years of this research. At the end of the fifth year, Laszlo and her team will look back to see what other predictions can be made regarding brain activity and reading progress.

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