You will hear references to the “double deficit” in dyslexics. This is a theory that dyslexics both have a weak phonological awareness (of the sounds in words) and also a poor naming speed rate, when asked to recall words.

We see this pattern in a subset of the children we help learn to read. Phonological weakness is very common, but sometimes you can teach a child to decode confidently yet it never becomes automatic and fluent.

The reason we most commonly find for that is that there is some specialised cortex that can see patterns in apparently random combinations. In these children that is not being engaged. I have no data for it, but my suspicion is that they would be poor at rapid naming too. Anecdotally they tend to have difficulty with word recall.

We engage this bit of cortex with a game we call Word Mash. It forces them to try and spot an anagram of a word in a list of decoys.

When the cortex is engaged, this becomes surprisingly easy. One can scan the list and immediately spot the right word in 1-2 seconds. When you try to do it without engaging the cortex designed for the job, it takes 10-20 seconds.

By making the children try to do the task in a game setting, they seem to engage the cortex and then their reading becomes more fluent.


David Morgan is CEO of Oxford Learning Solutions, publisher of the Easyread System. Easyread is an online course that helps children with dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, and highly visual learning styles improve their reading and spelling through short daily lessons. Find out more at or on Facebook at