8

Practical implications and additional systems

The aim of this chapter is to clarify what implications particular findings have for practical problems in learning to read. There is no royal road to reading. The description of processing which is discussed in the next chapter is a tentative model that needs testing. But the findings we have so far on how the processes in reading by touch link together also raise questions about practical procedures. The application of findings to individual situations, and how they are best implemented, are matters that can only be gauged by the readers themselves and the teachers that help them to learn.

It will have been evident throughout that though the empirical studies necessarily focused on particular processes in reading, these processes do not occur in isolation. On the contrary, they depend to a very large extent on each other. The ability to use tactual information to represent language requires the combination of phonological and semantic skills with convergent inputs from touch, movement and reference cues. Tactual coding can be useful, but memory spans are larger for items that were sufficiently familiar to be recoded quickly into phonological form. Beginning readers depended on phonemic recoding and memory for the sound of words. But they were also influenced by the familiarity of words. Well-practised lateral scanning and spatial organization as well as language and orthographic skills were involved in reading continuous texts for meaning. But errors in scanning or place-keeping were also repaired by knowing the gist of the sentence or passage in which the error occurred. Experience and familiarity of orthographic-phonological habits were also important in processing contracted forms.

In important respects, therefore, the practical implications turn on the issue how the multiple verbal and spatial demands of braille reading can be integrated during acquisition without producing mental 'overload'. Young children particularly require more redundancy of information and more assistance than adults or older children, if only because they know less about any aspect of complex tasks, and are less experienced and less practised in all the subsidiary skills that these require. Additional information is needed also to restore the informational redundancy that is lost

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