If Children Were Elephants, They’d All Learn to Read

A while ago I was watching an educational documentary on elephants.  The expert being interviewed was talking about the old adage, “An elephant never forgets.”  Did you know that is actually true?  And here I thought that that was just one of my mom’s ways of reminding me that I needed to work a little harder on my memory.  As I watched the show it suddenly dawned on me …..

If children were elephants, they could all learn to read.

Yup, you read that correctly!

Scientists tell us that elephants (especially the females – sorry guys) have the ability to continually build memory.  The older and more experienced the elephant, the better the memory.

So what does that have to do with children and reading?

Most general reading programs involve having students memorize words as word wholes.  If we have to memorize word lists that takes up a huge portion of our short term memories.  If a child or adult for that matter has difficulties in the area of short term memory, you are hooped.  Many times, learning English this way simply causes confusion, frustration and anxiety.  The end result is children falling through the cracks because they cannot make sense of the language and learn to read.

Our brains are not wired that way.

The human brain is hardwired for speech not reading.  We cannot learn to read the same way we learn to speak.  If we needed to memorize words to learn to read then we would have to memorize one million of them.  Hmmm, wonder how the elephants are doing with that?

Messing with natural function

Unlike elephants we do not have phenomenal memory banks to pull from.  Humans are far better off to memorize 26 letters, 44 sounds and a few rules that control the language and leave the rest of our memory power to remember how to drive to the zoo.

An elephant never forgets so don’t forget this resource:

A great website for parents to go to in order to understand the actual reading process and the problems that we are now seeing in ever increasing numbers is


You are not likely to see an elephant relaxing on the beach enjoying a good book and unless your child learns to read effectively they won’t know just how wonderful that can be.

If you suspect a problem, seek assistance before your child needs Dumbo’s feather and you can’t find one.