#20: From Decoding To Comprehending (Dae Selcer & Rabbi Jason Klein)

Rabbi Klein talks with Dae Selcer, a local teacher and lifelong congregant of Temple Israel. Dae is a graduate student at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she is studying to obtain a dyslexia specialist certificate. Dae teaches us about the science of reading, the facts and misconceptions about dyslexia, and how our Hebrew education can be improved thanks to these insights. Please subscribe to TEMPLE TALKS and review the show. Comments and questions can be directed to TMoss@TempleIsrael.com. Talk with us! An excerpt from this week’s Temple Talks follows below.
An edited excerpt from this week’s Temple Talks follows below. 

Rabbi Klein

In thinking of my own Jewish education, I first learned to read Hebrew, and only much later got to a point where I could speak with any similar fluency to what I read. It took years in the making and maybe that's because it should have been flipped over—speaking before reading.

Dae Selcer

Exactly. And in fact, one of the real science-based practices is moving from speech to print, and that's actually the title of a very excellent book by Dr. Louisa Moats for anyone out there who's interested to dig in more. There's some technical stuff in there, but it's a little bit more accessible than reading an article in a scholarly journal. I highly recommend it. 

But yes, moving from speech to print is the way that we develop very strong readers.

And as you say, language is so important, and we should be thinking about reading as a manifestation of language. There’s a famous idea out there in the research called the simple view of reading which was proposed by Gough and Tunmer in the eighties. It says that good reading comprehension is the product of one’s ability to decode multiplied by your ability to comprehend language.

You need both those pieces, right? You need to be able to associate speech sounds to words, but you also need to understand the language that you're speaking.

You could probably teach me to read in Finnish pretty quickly because Finnish is a very regular language. However, I wouldn't have good reading comprehension because I wouldn't understand the words that I was reading. You need both. You need associating sounds with words and letters, but you also need deep comprehension of spoken language, which is something that's often neglected.

So bringing it back to the Jewish lens: what did the rabbis teach us about prayer? It’s not enough to just be saying the words, you must look at the words. But it's not enough to just look at the words, you must have that kavannah, that intention inside of you. And when I think about the science of reading, I think of that kavannah as really comprehending what we're reading.

We need to be skilled decoders, but we also need to be thinking about what it is that we're doing at the same time. 

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