Unfortunately children don’t begin reading by instantly decoding sounds and acquiring sight vocabulary. They move through predictable phases of recognizing letters, recalling their sounds, and then understanding that when the sounds are blended together, these are words. Words carry meaning and when combined into sentences, a story is built.
There are other areas that silently play into being a good reader – visual processing skills that we take for granted because they just seem to happen for most of us. There are many visual processing skills that affect more than just reading.
Visual discrimination uses the sense of sight to notice and compare the features of different items to distinguish one item from another. While reading, we do this with letters and then words in a sentence. Children with poor visual discrimination have a hard time seeing the difference between two similar letters, shapes or objects. This affects the speed to learn new words and spelling skills.
Visual processing speed is the ability to recognize numbers, letters and words quickly, an important factor in good reading fluency. Research shows that children with good visual processing speeds are faster readers that children with slow processing speeds.
Visual sequential memory is the ability to determine or remember the order of symbols, words, or objects. This skill is particularly important for spelling. A child who struggles with visual sequencing may leave out, add or switch around letters within words. Recognizing and remembering patterns may also prove difficult.
Visual memory means that students must be able to look at a word, form an image of that word in their minds, and be able to recall the appearance of the word later. Once the word is erased or out of sight, students with good visual memory will recognize that same word later in their readers or other texts and will be able to recall the appearance of the word to spell it.