Reading, writing, spelling — It's about oral language and building the brain for literacy…

…and so is SPELL-Links!

SPELL-Links uses a speech-to-print approach that leverages the brain’s innate, biological wiring and organization for oral language. Unlike other reading programs, which begin with the written letter and teach students to match the letter to a sound, SPELL-Links first helps students learn how to attend to the sound structure of spoken English words and then how to connect and combine sounds (phonology), letter patterns (orthography), and meanings (morphology/semantics) to read and spell words. This is exactly how the brain works in good readers and writers!

With SPELL-Links, students also develop meta-linguistic abilities and build executive function proficiency. This empowers them to apply their word study knowledge, skills, and strategies to successfully, independently read, write, and spell every day, not just during the classroom lesson or on the weekly test.

"Teaching how to read and write is a dynamic orchestration of the linguistic brain."
Dr. Jan Wasowicz
SPELL-Links Author

The Human Brain

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The Human Brain: Biologically Wired for Oral Language

The brain is biologically wired only for oral language—speaking, listening, and understanding—not for written language. There are no genes and no neurological or biological structures specific to reading and writing. To successfully read and write, each brain must “repurpose” regions biologically designed for other purposes and create new circuits and neural connections.

The Human Brain: Re-wired for Written Language

In order to successfully read, write, and spell, the human brain must “repurpose” regions of the brain biologically designed for other purposes, develop specialization of neurons, create new circuits and connections attuned to written language, and develop efficiency within these newly formed neural connections to achieve functional connectivity. 

Learning to read and write is not just about acquiring knowledge, it’s about establishing the reading-writing network in the brain and developing functional connectivity within that newly created neural network. For most students, this re-wiring of the brain requires multi-linguistic, multi-modality literacy instruction using speech-to-print Connectionist Word Study instructional methods. SPELL-Links provides this research-based instruction.

"Across all written languages, reading development involves: a rearrangement of older structures to make new learning circuits; a capacity for specialization in working groups of neurons within these structures for representing information; and automaticity — the capacity of these neuronal groups and learning circuits to retrieve and connect this information at nearly automatic rates."
Dr. Maryanne Wolf
Proust and the Squid

Scientific research has shown how children learn to read and how they should be taught. But many educators don't know the science and, in some cases, actively resist it. As a result, millions of kids are being set up to fail.

More than 60% of American 4th graders are not proficient readers. While many have accepted this as normal or attributed the issue to poverty, more and more educators are looking to brain research for answers. They are learning what speech-to-print enthusiasts already know — learning to read is not a natural process. The brain is wired to speak and must be re-wired to read.

American Public Media correspondent Emily Hanford dives deep into America’s literacy problem in her article,Hard Words: Why aren’t kids being taught to read?”  In it, she discusses how deeply-entrenched beliefs are preventing students from becoming proficient readers. We highly recommend this article to anyone on-the-fence about a speech-to-print approach to reading and writing. 

“We read with our eyes, but the starting point for reading is speech.” 

– Mark Seidenberg

“Children are wired for sound but print is an optional accessory that must be painstakingly bolted on.“

 – Stephen Picker (in Foreword)

“We now understand why the whole-language method deluded so many psychologists and teachers.”

 – Stanislas Dehaene

“Teachers and practitioners now understand that speech-to-print instruction is much more than spelling instruction – it is a powerful form of reading instruction.

– Jan Wasowicz

 No one is wired for reading and writing…we’re biologically wired for oral language. But most schools teach using a man-made system for print, for letters; it’s not a match to the system our brains come with.”

– Jan Wasowicz in Blame It On Gutenberg

Watch Documentary

The Five-Block Connectionist Model

SPELL-Links to Reading & Writing is based on current reading and writing research, including brain imaging studies. The structured literacy curriculum uses a Connectionist Word Study approach to teaching reading and writing, employing multi-linguistic and meta-linguistic word study instruction. This multi-component approach builds literacy with instructional methods and activities that simultaneously develop, connect, and integrate the different processes and regions of the brain involved in effective reading and writing.

With SPELL-Links, students develop specialized knowledge and skill in the five language blocks of word study — phonological awareness, orthographic knowledge and pattern awareness, semantics, morphological knowledge and awareness, and storage and retrieval of orthographic representations in long term lexical memory. At the same time, students engage and connect multiple language centers of the brain to establish and strengthen the vital neural functional connectivity that is needed for efficient reading and writing.

It’s Time for SPELL-Links.

An extensive body of current reading and writing research conducted across multiple disciplines has shed new light on best practices for teaching students to become effective readers and writers. These leading researchers tell us that it’s time to shift away from traditional phonics word study methods and move towards speech-to-print connectionist methods of word study instruction. The science of reading and writing tells us it’s time for SPELL-Links to Reading & Writing.

"In the NICHD-funded research on specific learning disabilities (SLDs) involving language that I directed as principal investigator for over 25 years (cross-sectional, longitudinal, genetic, brain imaging, and school- based and clinic- based interventions) our interdisciplinary team published evidence showing that not all reading disabilities are the same and not all writing disabilities are the same. Findings showed that dysgraphia (impaired letter production), dyslexia (impaired word decoding/reading and word encoding/spelling), and oral and written language learning disability (OWL LD; impaired syntactic skills for language by ear, mouth, eye, and/or hand) differed… yet all three SLDs benefit from spelling instruction as in SPELL-Links."
Virginia W. Berninger, PhD
Professor Emerita, University of Washington