Reading is an important skill for communication, education, and most types of work. Reading disorders interfere with people’s ability to read and affect how they learn to read. NICHD conducts and supports a variety of research aimed at understanding the process of reading, the mechanisms of reading disorders, and the best ways to help people who struggle with reading.
Reading is the process by which a person gets information from written letters and words. A person can read using sight or touch, such as when a vision-impaired person reads braille.
The skill of reading is built on an understanding of how sounds form words, the relationship between letters and sounds, and other complex elements.
Research has helped define the elements of good reading instruction, including clear, specific lessons and a consistent plan.
Reading disorders mean a person has trouble reading words or understanding what they read. Dyslexia is one type of reading disorder.
The signs of a reading disorder vary from person to person but often include difficulty spelling, sounding out words, and understanding what they just read.
Diagnosing reading disorders usually involves different tests of memory, spelling, visual perception, reading, and comprehension. Family history and other assessments may also be involved.
Research shows that reading disorders result from a specific, brain-based difficulty in learning to recognize and decipher printed words. There is no single known cause of these difficulties.
NICHD conducts and supports research on reading and reading disorders and on many conditions associated with reading and reading disorders.
Find answers to other common questions about reading and reading disorders, such as how to help your child and how adults can manage their disorder.