24 Following


Currently reading

Paddy's Lament, Ireland 1846-1847: Prelude to Hatred
Thomas Gallagher
Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One
Jenny K. Blake
When in French: Love in a Second Language
Lauren Collins
Beyond the Job Description: How Managers and Employees Can Navigate the True Demands of the Job
Jesse Sostrin
Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing
David Hubel, Margaret S. Livingstone
Achieving Your Potential As A Photographer: A Creative Companion and Workbook
Harold Davis
Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age
Sherry Turkle
Picture Perfect Practice: A Self-Training Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Taking World-Class Photographs (Voices That Matter)
Roberto Valenzuela
Man's Search for Meaning
Viktor E. Frankl, Harold S. Kushner
Terms of Service: Social Media and the Price of Constant Connection
Jacob Silverman

Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain

Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain - Maryanne Wolf "Proust's sanctuary [in reading] and the scientist's squid [understanding of how neurons fire and transmit to each other] represent complementary ways of understanding different dimensions in the reading process." p.6"unlike its component parts such as vision and speech, which are genetically organized, reading has no direct genetic program passing it on to future generations." p.11"We are also in the exciting early stages of understanding the little-studied benefits that accompany the brain development of some persons with dyslexia. ...(Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Charles Schwab, Leonardo da Vinci, Auguste Rodin, etc.)... What is it about the dyslexic brain that seems linked in some people to unparalleled creativity in their professions, which often involve design, spatial skills, and the recognition of patterns?" p.22Claim: The alphabet stimulates novel thought best. The classicist Eric Havelock and the psychologist David Olson assert the thought-provoking hypothesis that the efficiency of the Greek alphabet led to an unparalleled transformation in the actual content of thought. By liberating people from the effort required by an oral tradition, the alphabet's efficiency "stimulated the thinking of novel thought.....By taking a meta-view of this entire history, we can see that what promotes the development of intellectual thought in human history is not the first alphabet or even the best iteration of an alphabet but writing itself. As the 20th-century Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky said, the act of putting spoken words and unspoken thoughts into written words releases and, in the process, changes the thoughts themselves. As humans learned to use written language more and more precisely to convey their thoughts, their capacity for abstract thought and novel ideas accelerated." p.65-66Socrates' objection -- the loss of control over language (when written rather than spoken). "Questions about access to knowledge run throughout human history -- from the fruit of the tree of knowledge to Google. Socrates' concerns become greatly amplified by our present capacity for everyone with a computer to learn very, very quickly about virtually anything, anywhere, anytime at an "unguided" computer screen. Does this combination of immediacy, seemingly limitless information and virtual reality pose the most powerful threat so far to the kind of knowledge and virtue valued by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle? Will modern curiosity be sated by the flood of pat, often superficial information on a screen, or will it lead to a desire of more in-depth knowledge? Can a deep examination of words, thoughts, reality, and virtue flourish in learning characterized by continuous partial attention and multitasking? Can the essence of a word, a thing, or a concept retain importance when so much learning occurs in 30-second segments on a moving screen? Will children inured by ever more realistic images of the world around them have a less practiced imagination? Is the likelihood of assuming we understand the truth or reality of a thing even greater if we see it visually depicted in a photograph, film, or video or on "reality TV"? How would Socrates respond to a filmed version of a Socratic dialogue, to his entry in Wikipedia, or to a screen clip on YouTube?" p.77Reading development in children. "After considering the many ways that exposure to books helps children's development of later reading, we might assume that just reading a great many books to your child is enough preparation in the preschool reading period. Not quite. According to some researchers, being read to is only part of what prepares children for reading. Another good predictor is the seemingly humble ability to name a letter. ... Many a child in many a culture can be seen "reading" a book by moving a finger, even when there is not a single line of print in sight. One aspect of print awareness begins with the discovery that printed words go in a particular direction: .. left to right, right to left, top to bottom. ..Next comes a trickier set of skills. As the particular shapes of some lines become increasingly familiar, some children can identify some of the colored letters on the refrigerator door, in the bathtub, or on a piece of drawing paper. The brain's ability to recognize the visual shape of, say, a turquoise letter is no casual feat. ... p.90-91When should a child begin to read? "Reading depends on the brain's ability to connect and integrate various sources of information -- specifically, visual with auditory, linguistic and conceptual areas. This integration depends on the maturation of each of the individual regions, their association regions, and the speed with which these regions can be connected and integrated. That speed, in turn, depends a great deal on the muelination of the neuron's axons. Nature's best conductive material, myelin, consists of a fatty sheathing wrapping around the cell's axon. ... Although each of the sensory and motor regions is mylineated and functions independently before a person is 5 years of age, the principal regions of the brain that underlie our ability to integrate visual, verbal, and auditory information rapidly -- like the angular gyrus -- are not fully myelinated in most humans until five years of age and after. . . . Geschwind also hypotehsized that myelination in these critical cortical regions develops more slowly in some boys; this might be one reason why more boys are slower to read fluently than girls." p.94-95Other readiness steps."In addition to writing, there are other, equally entertaining ways to help children develop an awareness of phonemes. Mother Goose is one. Tucked inside 'Hickory, dickory dock, a mouse ran up the clock' and other rhymes can be found a host of potential aids to sound awareness -- alliteration, assonance, rhyme, repetition. Alliterative and rhyming sounds teach the young ear that words can sound similar because they share a first or last sound. if you listen to young children tell their first jokes, the whimsical appeal of rhyme will immediately strike you. Like Winnie-the-Pooh, children love to repeat a "matching pair" of sounds over and over and over ("funny bunny, you're a funny bunny, honey!"), just because the rhyme catches their fancy. Equally important, the child who has begun to discriminate paired sounds has also begun to segment the internal parts of words into smaller components. Children 4 and 5 years old are learning to discern the onset or first sounds of a word ("S" in "Sam") and the rime ("am" in "Sam"). This is the beginning of the long important process of being able to hear each individual phoneme in a word, which facilitates learning to read." P.99"Extensive research on the development of this phonological aspect of language indicates that systematic play with rhymes, first sounds and last sounds in wordplay, jokes, and songs significantly contributes to a child's readiness to read. Teaching a child to enjoy poetry and music is serious child's play." p.100Kindergarten -- Where the precursors come together. Helping children learn several difficult linguistic concepts:1) that there can be a one-to-one correspondence between a sound and a symbol2) the more difficult concepts that each letter has both a letter name and a sound or a group of sounds that it represents: and the converse that each sound is represented by a letter or sometimes several letters3) the understanding that words can be segmented into syllables and sounds." p. 101Approaching fluent comprehension. p.131 ...skills that contribute to the development of reading comprehension in these children: for example, how they can enlist key executive functions such as working memory and comprehension skills such as inference and analogy. "Sometimes, however, a child in this phase of development also needs to know simply that he or she must read a word, sentence, or paragraph a second time to understand it correctly. Knowing when to reread a text...to improve comprehension is part of what my Canadian colleague Maureen Lovett refers to as "comprehension monitoring." ... By the end of this period, decoding readers think in a new way when they read." p.132Emotional engagement. "But there is another aspect to the feeling dimension: children's ability to throw themselves fully into Charlotte's Web, or into any story, any book, "whole hog." After all the letters and decoding rules are learned, after the subterranean life of words is grasped, after the various comprehension processes are beginning to be deployed, the elicitation of feelings can bring children into a life-long, head-on love affair with reading and develop their ability to become fluent comprehending readers." p.133"Reading is experience. A biography of any literary person ought to deal at length with what he read and when, for in some sense, we are what we read." Joseph Epstein, quoted on p. 155How what we read changes us over time. "How was it that in the weeks since her marriage Dorothea had not distinctly observed but felt with a stifling depression, that the large vistas and wide fresh air which she had dreamed of finding in her husband's mind were replaced with ante-rooms and winding passages which seemed to lead nowhither?"..."This single sentence from Middlemarch illustrates several dimensions in expert reading. First, if the reader misses the implicit meaning, much of the nuances of the next 50 pages will also be missed. The metaphors here show how critical our "quality of attention" is to understanding the layers of meaning within a text. Without this dimension, we would miss the real meaning of Dorothea's plight. Second, this particularly 19th-century sentence illustrates how important familiarity with varied syntactic structures can be for comprehension, and also how syntactic forms can reinforce an intended meaning. Eliot strings together 4 clauses and 6 phrases in this sentence before she leaves us "nowhither." It is almost as if she uses the recursive potential of syntax to re-create the endless anterooms that characterize poor Mr. Casaubon's mind. ...A second, later passage, this time from Mr. Casaubon's perspective, may be less memorable, and for good reason:'He had formerly observed with approbation her capacity for worshiping the right object; he now foresaw with sudden terror that this capacity might be replaced with presumption -- that which see vaguely a great many fine ends and has not the least notion of what it costs to research them.'I have read Middlemarch a half dozen times. Only when I read it last year did I see this passage about Mr. Casaubon in a different light. For 3 decades I identified completely and solely with the disillusionment of the idealistic Dorothea. Only now do I begin to fathom Casaubon's fears, his unmet hopes, and his own form of disillusion at not being understood by the youthful Dorothea. I never thought I would see the day when I empathized with Mr. Casaubon, but now, with no small humility, I admit that I do. So also did George Eliot, perhaps for reasons similar to my own. Reading changes our lives, and our lives change our reading. p.158"Before you began to read a single word [of a paragraph from The Brothers Karamazov, the contextual info I provided evoked a set of executive processes for prediction, anticipation, and planning. These processes primed you with a particular literary genre (Russian novel) and historical setting (a dialogue between a monk and a divine presence during the Inquisition). Next, as you decoded the text, you placed the surface representations of words in temporary storage (working memory) to "hold" highly sophisticated knowledge -- not only about the meanings of individual words and phrases and their grammatical uses, but also about a number of difficult, sometimes counter-intuitive propositions in the text. ... Meanwhile, meanings for these concepts activated long-term memory for general background knowledge -- of 19th-century Russian, of the Inquisition, of philosophical thinking about goodness and evil, and of Dostoyevsky's use of the novel for didactic purposes. ...The entire range of complexity in any text affects the comprehension of the expert reader -- from word meanings and syntactic demands to the number of conceptual propositions to be held in memory. As illuminated in this excerpt, intellectual flexibility comes to the fore to make sense of concepts that run counter to conventional assumptions. .. As we saw in the passages from Middlemarch, comprehension is affected by everything that the reader brings to the text. Ivan and Mr. Casaubon may not improve with age, but we understand them more at 37, 57, or 77 than we do at 17. The dynamic interaction between text and life experiences is bidirectional: we bring our life experiences to the text, and the text changes our experience of life." p. 160Conclusions [the author's]."We are only at the beginning of analyzing the cognitive implications of using, for instance, the browser "back" button, URL syntax, "cookies," and "pedagogical tags" for enhancing comprehension and memory. [My own note: think of 5 year old Joey and his insistence to go back to the menu.]