Research is clear that our brains activate in concert with the experiences and characters we come to know through books. Whether it is through storybooks or great literature, our brains “feel” what the characters feel and become solution-oriented when a character needs our help to survive or succeed. Books give us a protected rehearsal for life. We become attached to the people we read about, we care about them… sometimes deeply…and we mourn their loss when our book is finished.

The books we read as young students provide a laboratory for our own character development. The characters in our readings are our role models, allowing us to think more deeply about their actions and reactions. We are taught through the stories and our discussions to consider whether their decisions were wise, kind, or helpful…or not, without having to experience the consequences of those decisions in our lives.

Learning to read isn’t just about exploring new places and learning about different things, it is about BECOMING. Dr. Maryanne Wolf’s research directs us to construct a child’s Deep Reading Brain. A brain that reads deeply has options for how to think about one’s self and who we want to be, about the plight of others and how we might help, despite our own circumstances.  In this way, we learn to empathize with Brian Robeson in Hatchet and our hearts break as we read Anne Frank’s diary. We ask ourselves, what could have been done and then what would we have done. We find out who we are in those moments and our brain changes with every thought. We BECOME through a process of thought, rather than through experience alone.

If children don’t learn to decode and comprehend well in the early years, they may never be the reader they could have been and their BECOMING will be dependent on those around them. They must then experience the consequences of their own decisions, without being able to predict the outcomes in advance. We have to act… so that all of our children can BECOME who they are meant to be. We have already waited too long. This has to stop NOW before we fail another generation of children. 

The Atlanta Speech School’s purpose, for each child and every child, is the construction of their Deep Reading Brain.