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Why is it that great readers sometimes have difficulty spelling?

When children are able to read well, they have reached the point where they have each word form ingrained in their long-term, visual memory. When reading they go straight to the prefrontal cortex, which has this visual format of the word stored, such as the word “monkey”.

This is how most good readers read, jumping from one word to the next, as they recognize its form, visually. In fact, really strong readers might only look at the first two or three letters of a word and predict what the word is based on the meaning of the previous text in whatever they are reading.

Many students’ have excellent long term, visual memory. This is often why people with reading difficulties go undiagnosed, and difficulties go unnoticed. Phonetic decoding is a whole different skill set and this is the part that stumps them. Words they have never seen before and don’t have a visual format for, stored in their long-term memory, stop them in their tracks. This is where we can help


These children need decoding strategies, such as those at Jill Abrams Tutoring. Breaking words into syllables, teaching the phonetic code, the symbols, sounds and spelling rules associated with words will help children immensely. There will always be new words throughout their life, which we refer to as “nonsense” words. It is when the student can read and spell the nonsense words that have truly learned the rules of our language, not just memory.

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