Reading Process Decoded at Lindamood-Bell
With 41 learning centers across the US, one in London, and additional facilities planned, Lindamood-Bell, which offers training in the sensory-cognitive processes necessary for successful reading and comprehension, is clearly doing something right. In a live video presentation to all its centers, co-founder Nanci Bell explained the history, methodology, and implementation of the Lindamood-Bell learning process. She noted the US has 6,500,000 learning disabled students and spends $70 to $80 billion dollars annually for special education classes that teach reading. The efforts are often unsuccessful; in some low-income urban areas, 70% of fourth graders cannot read. The popular phonics or word recognition approaches do not always work.
The Lindamood-Bell method involves integration of the auditory and visual components of reading, or Duel Coding Theory (DCT). Imagery is a key tool; students are taught to stimulate and apply visualization, the silent partner of language. Concept imagery is dynamic and symbol imagery is static. Another emphasis is analytical versus global reading. Analytical readers focus on every word while global readers seek contextual information. The Globals have a better chance at comprehension. Many students can read words, or decode texts, but have no understanding of content. Symptoms of weak concept imagery include difficulty following directions, grasping humor, expressing language orally or in writing, interpreting social situations, paying attention, and staying focused.
Bell quotes several illustrious thinkers who echo her advocacy of visualization. In ancient times, Aristotle maintained, “Man cannot think without mental images. In the 12th century, Thomas Aquinas said, “Man’s mind cannot understand thoughts without images.” Our own century’s Albert Einstein quipped, “If I can’t picture it, I can’t understand it.” The Lindamood-Bell model has been implemented in hundreds of schools with positive results. In a low-income district in Pueblo, Colorado, where staff was given professional development workshops, the number of special education students dropped by 30 percent. The Pueblo model is now being replicated in the Dillingham Elementary School in Alaska. Gains in the largely Hispanic Olive Elementary School in California top those of similar schools in the state. Intensive interventions brought to Navaho Nation schools in Gallup, NM have produced increases in comprehension and vocabulary.
Lindamood-Bell is an intensive one-on-one process. Following diagnostic testing and evaluation, a student is placed in a one hour a day, five day a week program that typically lasts four to six months. More intensive instruction could involve four hours a day, five days a week and last six to eight weeks. Four hour a day, six-week summer programs are also available. A public school parent from Queens who enrolled her third-grade son for two summers, reports, “He improved so much. His self-confidence improved. His teachers noticed a difference when he returned to school.” Upon her request, the mother received instructions about follow up and doing visualizing exercises with her son. A range of professional workshops are offered. Janet Dierbeck, an educational therapist, took a visualizing and verbalizing class at the Center and reports, “It gave me the tools to help the kids think about what they were reading in a different way. If they don’t have that ability, they don’t comprehend even simple material. They can read the words but have no idea what they are reading.”
“We teach students how they learn. No one else is doing it,” explains Jennifer Egan, director of the New York City Center. The program and progress of every student at the Center is documented. Nevertheless more research is needed. Is language comprehension related to environment, genetics, or culture? Bell proposes establishment of a Society for the Study of Language Comprehension. Egan finds the proposal “exciting,” saying “It will bring the kind of attention to comprehension that the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) brought to dyslexia.”#