Device designed to hone reading, speaking skills of young and old

Anna Riggenbach

Children learn to read by reading aloud. Some may find it frustrating and give up quickly, while others stick with it even though they may not understand the concept.

Reading aloud connects spoken language with written text. Some readers, however, struggle with making this connection.

Self-amplification can help conquer this, said fluency expert and education professor Timothy Rasinski.

Rasinski addresses the issue of self-amplification in his book, The Sound of Learning: Why Self-Amplification Matters, which he co-authored with audiologist Carol Flexer.

“Fluency is highly associated with comprehension tests,” Rasinski said. “This is a problem that hasn’t been addressed efficiently.”

Flexer, who works in pediatrics, has always been interested in how children hear and receive sound.

“In order for children to speak, we will have to monitor their language,” Flexer said. “You have to hear yourself read aloud in order to alter, monitor or enhance how well you can do that.”

The WhisperPhone, a device that amplifies sounds, has been helping children gain a better comprehension of reading.

“Amplification of sound improves reading,” Rasinski said. “The WhisperPhone is a way of adding to that.”

The phone is a device worn on the head that looks like a cell phone headset. The user speaks into the microphone and the user’s words are transmitted into the earpiece.

“The WhisperPhone makes sure that the person hears their own voice as they’re reading aloud or collecting spelling words,” Flexer said. “Anytime you want to monitor what you’re saying, you have to have a clear auditory expression of what you sound like.”

The phone has been a hit in classrooms that have adopted this reading technology.

“Some kids really took off with it,” Rasinski said. “With this and other advances, reading problems will go down.”

Flexer said she thinks children and adults can benefit from the WhisperPhone.

“I see the WhisperPhone as a proactive device,” she said. “It could be used beautifully to learn a foreign language.”

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Anna Riggenbach at [email protected].