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Right-Brained Reading Strategies


Children with right brain characteristics often need a different approach to reading. These children, who tend to be visually-spatially oriented, holistic, and “big picture” rather than detail-oriented, and tend to create meaning from words by developing three-dimensional pictures in their minds. It is not unusual for traditional decoding phonics programs or decoding strategies to be ineffective for right-brain oriented kids. Previous right-brained learning articles provided strategies for helping right-brain learners with math, and gave a general overview of how the right-brained student processes information for reading.

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Right Brain Reading Strategies

If you have a right-brained reader, consider the following curricula and strategies:

  1. Use a blended approach to teaching reading, which includes both phonics instruction and a whole-language approach. The National Reading Panel found that the best approach to reading includes “…phonics instruction, methods to improve fluency, and ways to enhance comprehension”[1]. Right brained students generally read more quickly with a sight-word approach (because they are able to see the word as a whole rather than have to break it down into parts), which can help them gain confidence and quickly build their reading skills. However, once children have begun to recognize some words, they should receive phonics instruction as well, with an approach palatable to right-brain learners (ideas are listed below).
  2. Use a reading program specifically designed with the right-brain oriented child in mind. Some suggestions:
    1. Easy For Me Reading
    2. The Illustrated Book of Sounds & Their Spelling Patterns (a follow-up to Easy For Me Reading; affiliate link)
    3. Itchy’s Alphabet
    4. Right Brain Phonics Program
    5. Scaredy Cat Reading System
  3. Choose reading material that is of interest to the child. Right-brained learners want to find meaning in what they do; they have difficulty following steps or going through processes if they do not understand why doing so matters to them. Lean toward real books with a plot and stimulating storyline rather than phonics readers or readers that utilize passages or sections which are divorced for a larger story. If you need to use simple readers, consider these options:
    1. Bob Books
    2. Brand New Readers
    3. Merrill Readers
    4. Modern Curriculum Press Phonics Practice Readers
    5. Scholastic Sight Word Readers
  4. Use pictures to help teach reading. Because right-brain oriented kids are visually oriented and see things holistically rather than in parts, utilize phonics programs that incorporate visual images to teach reading. When teaching sight words, write the name of the word either on top of a picture of the word, or incorporate the written text of the word as a picture. For example, the word “bed” could be made with a stick figure person lying down with a pillow against the “b” and feet against the “d”. Examples of programs that use this picture approach:
    1. Right Brain Phonics Cards
    2. Itchy’s Alphabet
    3. SnapWords Teaching Cards
  5. Use lapbooks. Lapbooks not only make things visual for right-brain learners, but they tap into the hands-on, kinesthetic tendencies as well. Have children make a lapbook of words, phonics sounds, phonics rules, or other reading-related areas with which the child struggles. The visual and hands-on nature of creating the lapbook will help the child remember the concepts more effectively.
  6. Use online or computer programs to practice reading.Right-brain oriented children often enjoy the visual nature of computer programs (as long as they are not used as a substitute for regular interaction with a person). There are a variety of free online programs that can provide excellent practice for kids learning to read, and which can often take the stress out of the reading process.
    1. Starfall – This free interactive website includes letter practice, interactive beginning reading stories, phonics practice, phonics videos, reading games and more.
    2. – Kids can click on different phonics words, accompanied by pictures, in order to hear the words and sounds.
    3. – Phonics practice is interactive with this site, which includes letters and sounds, phonics games, and even a worksheet generator to print out phonics worksheets.
    4. – These free interactive games and software include alphabet activities, letter sounds, and Bridge to Reading, a program that teaches more than 100 of the most common sight words in an interactive fairy tale story.
  7. Focus on patterns rather than strict memorization. The more you can identify patterns in words, the easier it will be for right-brained children to read them. Rather than focusing on memorizing sight words simply by looking at them, memorizing spelling words, or remembering phonics rules, focus instead on identifying patterns in the words. Provide plenty of examples so that children can group words according to the patterns of sounds they make. For example, write “-tion” in a certain color at the top of a poster, and have the child help you make a list of “tion” words (conversation, motion, devotion, etc.). Each time “tion” is written in the word, use the same color as you did at the top. While a right-brained student will likely not remember how “tion” is said just by remembering a rule told to her, she will be able to remember it if a clear pattern for “tion” words is demonstrated.
  8. Set the child up for reading success. Pre-read the section, page or chapter your child will be reading, and write down any words that will likely be problematic for him. Go over these words and practice them with the child before he begins to read the passage. This will help the child gain confidence and fluency so he does not have to stumble over challenging words, which disrupt the child’s comprehension and desire to read.
  9. Let them practice by reading material that is easy for them. Right-brained readers focus on the big picture rather than the details, so it is common for them to skip or make up words when learning to read, and miss minutiae in the effort of comprehending the larger meaning. As they practice reading books with which they are familiar, or that are below their actual reading level, they build fluency and increase their ability to correct these semantic mistakes. A great way to do this is to set aside a quiet time each day during which no other activity is allowed other than reading. Allow the child to read whatever materials he wants during this period.
  10. Use colored transparencies over reading material. Some children, especially those who are dyslexic, have difficulty visually keeping the white of the paper in the background when reading black text, and find that the letters seem to move around. The energy required to differentiate the black text from white background can take away from energy necessary for actual reading. Colored transparencies can help these children tremendously. By simply putting a blue, green, or other colored transparency over the words they are reading, often kids find that they are able to read much more easily.

Look for more ideas in “Right-Brained Reading Strategies: Part 2.

More right-brained learning resources »



Rebecca Capuano

Rebecca Capuano is the stay-at-home mom of three children (one of whom is in heaven) who also makes attempts at being a homeschooler, writer, photographer, scrapbooker, and truth-seeker. She earned her Master of Social Work degree from East Carolina University, and has worked in a variety of capacities (including group homes, day treatment centers, and public schools) with at-risk children and staff, including developing a therapeutic and educational day treatment center for delinquent youth in Wilmington, North Carolina. She currently resides in Virginia, and has written on a variety of topics for both and Home Educators Association of Virginia. Rebecca believes that family is created by God as the most fundamental institution in society, and she is dedicated to helping families nurture their children to become responsible persons of character and integrity.

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  1. Ken

    I have a child in his sixth year apparently dyslexic at worse or right brained atI the least, stumbling through schooling at the moment. There are no teachers with special training to handle him. His class is overcrowded for him get any attention, the school programme has no provision for pupils like him. Each day at school is agony for him and my family. His jovial hyperactivity is misunderstood by his peers and teachers. He comes home almost everyday new sets of injuries inflicted on him by fellow pupils who are now exploiting his difficulties to articulate his story. The schools around here and the teachers available don’t even know what the matter is about .in spite of my concerted efforts to educate his teachers, it appears they are not interested in factoring in his challenge in their teaching method or not willing to undertake the extra efforts required to help him. I am resident doctor and hardly have the time to take him. I am at a lose at what to do. I will gladly like any assistance I can get for the boy.

    • Jeanne Faulconer

      Hi Ken,

      Most schools are geared to educating “the average child;” unfortunately, there is no such thing as the average child. There are some kids who get along well enough to benefit from school, but there are many others whose behaviors or quirks are not tolerated well. Providing for special cases costs more money, and schools are often not funded well enough to provide services to kids who are different. Teachers have their hands full, and while many have their students’ best interests at heart, they are unable to give the individual attention parents suggest or wish for.

      If you are not able to homeschool your child yourself, you may want to read our article Can Somebody Homeschool My Kids? You might get some ideas for how your child could be educated outside of the institution of school. People work things out in a surprising number of ways.

      Good luck!

  2. Jimmy

    So glad I found this! I just recently discovered my daughter is right-brained (didn’t even really know that was a thing) which is good to know since they learn so differently from other kids. She’s already a pretty good reader but this will help make her even better 🙂

    • Jeanne Faulconer

      Hi Jimmy,

      Glad you found some helpful information that will help your daughter who displays right brain learning characteristics.

      Happy homeschooling!


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