Letters vs. Words

Meaning is the Building Block of Words... Not Letters

Meaning with Emotion is the Basic Building Block of Words, Not Letters

There is a common proposition that the reason why you teach the letters – the alphabet – to children is that the letters are the building blocks of words. You see the letter and sound it out and then put the various sounds of each of the letters together to create how a word sounds in toto. Ignoring, as is often necessary, all the exceptions. This is actually a fallacy for dyslectic people and also a waste of time for non-dyslectic people as well. It is very old and not proven out at all that letters are the building blocks.It does look as though that were true, but, MEANING is the basic building block of words... not letters. And, keep in mind that letters have a lot of exceptions about how they are sounded out... a LOT of exceptions. Those exceptions are NOT clear unless you have the context of the word itself.

Teaching letters is something "we" do to teach children how to read and how to speak that deserves to be challenged.

The Whole Vs the Pieces 

Dyslectic people will tend toward the whole and not the pieces. Chopping words into pieces takes away the tendency of dyslectic people to automatically see the whole vs. the pieces. It is a common practice of education to present a logical step-by-step progression from pieces to simple to whole. The assumption being that children's minds are not smart to start with and have to be taught in steps rather than in wholes. Education, no matter how forward-thinking it is sometimes, in this instance it is not.

The Whole Has Meaning. Letters Have No Meaning.

The word "monkey," "cat," "dog" all have meaning and a picture that is easily connected to the whole word. Pictures are easily created in the mind and easily linked to the word, not its letters. Letters by themselves have no meaning and convey the idea of a "sound" if it is repeatedly taught but otherwise are shapes hanging out there with no meaning. Words are a "whole" and are easily seen by the mind as a "whole" and the ensuing images are easily linked to the word.


Whereas the letter C and A and T each one by itself mean nothing at all unless you want to drill in the sound of the letter assuming there are not exceptions… which there frequently are. The images can convey emotional quality as well just as shown in the above image. The perceptual mechanism of a dyslectic person jumps to the whole image and loves to embrace emotional qualities as well. It is the emotional qualities that are remembered and linked to the image and to the word very easily. Capture a dyslectic person's emotional activation to words and you have very fast comprehension of the word. Push a dyslectic person's perception into meaningless letters and you risk several things: boring them, inviting easy distraction, inviting preferred distraction (the distraction is more interesting than what you are doing), and distraction leads to nervous energy and nervous rejection... i.e. you lose them.

There is no need to get at it by stepping from "building blocks" to "sounds" to "hunks" to "words" and then to meaning, images and emotional qualities. You can start right off with images and emotional qualities and "allow" the dyslectic person to link them to the word on their own. They love doing that.

It is the emotional quality and then its link to the word that matters. You can drop the whole exercise of the stepping stones as the steps by themselves have no meaning, and therefore no emotional attachment and therefore no value. To the dyslectic brain "value" and "emotional meaning" are essential to their focus and attention. I have often wondered how education has become so embedded in simple to less simple to less, less simple, to simple idea, to more complicated ideas. When I say "no meaning" I am not referring to a judgmental idea, I mean it literally: no meaning. The letter C has no meaning. The word "cat" does have meaning and when linked immediately to the image of a cat or various cats which is even better, the word is then embraced. The letter C can just be ignored altogether.

Surely you remember how obstinate a teenager is about "WHY!!!??? Do I have to learn this??? WHY???" Their concern for "why" is actually very important and it is often ignored by grown ups and teen's concern is often met with patronizing attitudes. Not good. Answer that question... meaningfully... and they get on board. Answer it emotionally and meaningfully and they will lead you. The teenager is looking for meaning and proving my point that without meaning there is no remembrance and often only rejection and hostility.

I learned this from having taught myself to type many years ago. I taught myself, I did not learn how from any instruction or book or course or teachers or class room teaching at all. I had a typewriter (many years ago) and I looked at the paper and saw that what I typed showed up there. Letters meant nothing but words did. I learned to type words. To this day, I type words, not letters. I have to stop and think where a letter is but the word pops out of my fingers because the word is what I learned how to type. The word is now hard wired into my brain/finger motions... NOT the letters. And to this day go to a typing school and they teach letters, just random letters and they drill that in to nearly deadly boredom.

Please observe in the below text block that anything approximating an O or the O in p, q, d, c  of P, D, Q, and C (almost closed as an O) is shown in RED. (It was actually the color YELLOW but it does not show up well on screen so I substituted RED. Circles take precedence and a circle in in the letters q, p, d, b, o takes precedence in perception. The ascenders and decenders will tend toward being invisible with the perceptual preference going to the circles.

Note that I also add the color yellow as that is a color I often see assigned perceptually to the circles in all the letters that have a circle in them.

And you can see that were this the only thing going on with the various shapes it makes the text nearly unreadable to a normal perception and the dyslectic person finds this really hard to gather the strength to even WANT to attempt to read it.

The above text shows that some text has a priority in perception - in this case shown as RED. Note that the "normal" text is shown as gray which means it is lower down on perceptual importance than the shapes with "O" in them which are shown here is RED. This shows what jumps out to me when I read text (earlier in my life - not now as I have trained myself to either ignore or override this effect.)

(My actual color preference was for YELLOW but it does not show up well at all on computer text display so I replaced it with RED to illustrate the point.)

You can see that reading "normaly" in this state of high and low perceptual preference can be quite difficult if the goal is to read > perceive > understand > remember.


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