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Notre Dame has much to teach us about building codes and electrical shorts. We should also remember that the Cathedral was built as a lesson: to honor the glory of God, to signify that Paris was a city, and to serve as a textbook for an illiterate population. The art and statuary tell stories from the Old and New Testaments; the birth, life and death of Christ; the lives of the saints.

It is estimated that only about 6% of the population of Europe was literate in the 12th Century, mostly merchants and clerics. The Church did not encourage literacy in the laity, and, during the Inquisition, knowing how to read could be life threatening. 

We know that we were born to talk, and, judging from ancient artifacts and cave painting, we may have a predilection for dance and art and music. Reading and writing are new skills. As psychologist Peter Pramataris says about literacy, “People haven’t changed; the demands of society have.”

All skills that are not programmed into our DNA must be taught. Just as some people learn dancing, music and art faster and better than others, some people learn to read quicker and more easily than others.  I suspect that most of the 94% of 12th century Europeans who couldn’t read were not learning disabled; perhaps they just didn’t have the instruction, materials or need to become literate. 

Direct teaching usually produces learning. We know that all children can benefit from explicit instruction and correct practice in reading and writing, and, as Maryanne Wolf says, “People with dyslexia (however we discuss their different brain organization) need great, intensive, explicit teaching of the whole reading brain circuit, and more practice than anyone else.”

If you would like to learn more about explicit instruction and correct practice in the areas of reading and writing, please join us at one of our upcoming workshops. You will learn a lot, and you might be reminded of how you were taught to read.

Everyone Reading Workshops

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