How Reading Works

To understand more about who might benefit most from Literacy Links, it is helpful to understand how the brain works.  The brain performs four distinct processes when we read.

4 Processor Cat

Orthographic Processor

This is the first step in reading – visual information causes the system to kick in.  We see a string of symbols (letters).

Phonological Processor

The letters (symbols) are identified as a word:their spoken equivalent.

Meaning Processor

We reference our mental dictionary of words to find the meaning of the word.

Context Processor

We select word meanings appropriate for the text being read.


All four processors work together and compensate for each other’s weaknesses in word recognition. For example, if the sentence read ‘The cat burglar climbed the wall’ the context would indicate that ‘cat’ has nothing to do with a small furry animal.  The context processor would feed that information back to the meaning process or to look for a different meaning. 

Four Processor Model

Types of Readers

Using information about the four processors, we can identify different types of readers. Four Readers