A friend forwarded this very interesting read on the challenges of learning to read Arabic:
Series of studies published in the prestigious journal Neuropsychology has shown that because of the visual complexity of Arabic orthography, the brain's right hemisphere is not involved in decoding the text in the first stages of learning to read
The brain's right hemisphere is not involved in the initial processes of reading in Arabic, due to the graphic complexity of Arabic script. Therefore reading acquisition in Arabic is much harder in comparison to English. This has been shown in a series of studies that were carried out at the Department of Psychology and the Edmond J. Safra Brain Research Center for the Study of Learning Disabilities at the University of Haifa. These studies have been published in the prestigious journal Neuropsychology.