In many of my discussions with educators I have been
asked repeatedly for the research that backs up my observations and claims
about Print Inversion. Ironically, the research which proved the existence of PI in struggling readers and the
benefits of letting them do “what came naturally” was completed over 25 years
ago, but for some reason it wasn’t recognized .
study, which was conducted in Denmark by Larsen and Parlenvi and published in the
Orton Dyslexia Society’s Annals of
Dyslexia in 1984, was originally intended to determine the significance of
in which reading is carried out. In other words, would readers do just as well
(or just as poorly) if they had to read text from right-to-left rather than
from left to right?
guess how the researchers reversed the print direction to test its effect...
guessed it! They simply turned the text upside down!
study is entitled “Patterns of Inverted Reading and Subgroups in Dyslexia” and
it is available on the web from Springerlink.com for a cost of $34.00. But I
think I can pretty much describe how the experiment was done and sum up their
highly enlightening findings at no cost to you.
subjects of the experiment were 66 second grade students drawn from public
schools in the Gothenburg area of Denmark. The experimental group consisted of
46 struggling readers, 19 girls and 27 boys. Although the write-up says these
students were at least one standard
deviation below the Swedish standard, there is no way to know the full range of
dysfunction. I think it’s safe to assume that there were a number of non-readers
in the group, as well as many who had minimal reading skills.
control group was made up of 12 boys and 8 girls who were at, or above, second
grade reading level as determined by a standard reading test. Again, there is
no way of knowing how high these student’s scores reached, but I think it is
safe to assume that some were well above grade level. There were two separate
experiments done with these kids.
first experiment, a list of 153 words was presented to the students for them to
read – first in the “normal” way, and then upside down. The number of errors,
error types and WPM were recorded each time. In addition, the students were
asked to recall as many of the words as possible and scored appropriately.
results showed that the poor readers, as a group, made significantly less errors
when they read upside down. What’s really interesting is that when the good
readers read upside down, 95% of their errors were reversals, but when the poor
readers read upside down, less than 2% of their errors were reversals.
Not only that, but 16 of the poor readers actually read faster when the list was upside
down than when it was right-side-up.
The second experiment was administered in the same
way, but instead of a word list, Larsen and Parlenvi used a meaningful 10-word
sentence. Eye movements were recorded as the sentences were read both inverted
As you might expect, all of the good readers read much
faster in the upright position, but for the poor readers it was a different
story. Close to 60% of the poor readers read faster upside down than
The experimenters conclude, and I quote, “the directional
aspect of the reading process is of great importance to poor readers. At least
28% of the poor readers proved to be clearly better readers while reading from
right to left.”
or not you agree that directionality was the reason the poor readers did better reading upside down, the fact remains:
significant percentage of struggling readers perform much better when allowed
to hold the text inverted rather than in the “normal” way.