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

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

ISBN13: 9780060186395
ISBN10: 0060186399
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The act of reading is a miracle. Every new reader's brain possesses the extraordinary capacity to rearrange itself beyond its original abilities in order to understand written symbols. But how does the brain learn to read? As world-renowned cognitive neuroscientist and scholar of reading Maryanne Wolf explains in this impassioned book, we taught our brain to read only a few thousand years ago, and in the process changed the intellectual evolution of our species.

Wolf tells us that the brain that examined tiny clay tablets in the cuneiform script of the Sumerians is configured differently from the brain that reads alphabets or of one literate in today's technology.

There are critical implications to such an evolving brain. Just as writing reduced the need for memory, the proliferation of information and the particular requirements of digital culture may short-circuit some of written language's unique contributions — with potentially profound consequences for our future.

Turning her attention to the development of the individual reading brain, Wolf draws on her expertise in dyslexia to investigate what happens when the brain finds it difficult to read. Interweaving her vast knowledge of neuroscience, psychology, literature, and linguistics, Wolf takes the reader from the brains of a pre-literate Homer to a literacy-ambivalent Plato, from an infant listening to Goodnight Moon to an expert reader of Proust, and finally to an often misunderstood child with dyslexia whose gifts may be as real as the challenges he or she faces.

As we come to appreciate how the evolution and development of reading have changed the very arrangement of our brain and our intellectual life, we begin to realize with ever greater comprehension that we truly are what we read. Ambitious, provocative, and rich with examples, Proust and the Squid celebrates reading, one of the single most remarkable inventions in history. Once embarked on this magnificent story of the reading brain, you will never again take for granted your ability to absorb the written word.

Review:

"Wolf, a professor of child development at Tufts University, integrates psychology and archaeology, linguistics and education, history and neuroscience in a truly path-breaking look at the development of the reading brain-a complicated phenomenon that Wolf seeks to chronicle from both the early history of humanity and the early stages of an individual's development ('unlike its component parts such as vision and speech... reading has no direct genetic program passing it on to future generations'). Along the way, Wolf introduces concepts like 'word poverty,' the situation in which children, by age five, have heard 32 million less words than their counterparts (with chilling long-term effects), and makes time for amusing and affecting anecdotes, like the only child she knew to fake a reading disorder (attempting to get back into his beloved literacy training program). Though it could probably command a book of its own, the sizable third section of the book covers the complex topic of dyslexia, explaining clearly and expertly 'what happens when the brain can't learn to read.' One of those rare books that synthesizes cutting edge, interdisciplinary research with the inviting tone of a curious, erudite friend (think Malcolm Gladwell), Wolf's first book for a general audience is an eye-opening winner, and deserves a wide readership." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Anyone who reads is bound to wonder, at least occasionally, about how those funny squiggles on a page magically turn into 'Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang' or 'After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.' Where did this unlikely skill called reading come from? What happens in our brain when our eyes scan a line of type? Why do some of... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"Throughout, Wolf's intriguing combination of linguistic history, sociology, psychology, and neuroscience is engaging and clear." Library Journal

Review:

"[Maryanne Wolf] displays extraordinary passion and perceptiveness concerning the reading brain, its miraculous achievements and tragic dysfunctions." BookForum

Book News Annotation:

Many scholars believe that humans are hard-wired for language, but no one, points out Wolf (child development, Tufts U.), believes that about reading and writing. The act of reading is not natural, she argues, either for a child or in the evolution of the brain's capacity to learn. She loves it anyway, and here shares her knowledge and joy at learning to read in both evolutionary and development contexts; she also explores reasons that some people cannot learn to read. By the way, Proust says they were just friends; the squid is not commenting. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

About the Author

Maryanne Wolf is a professor of child development at Tufts University, where she holds the John DiBiaggio Chair of Citizenship and Public Service, and is the director of the Center for Reading and Language Research. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and two sons.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

lindsey beadle, August 29, 2009 (view all comments by lindsey beadle)
A little technical term heavy for the average recreational nonfiction reader, but if you can hang with it, a fascinating study of reading and the brain. Made me want to keep reading actual books. There's all kinds of science and history and anecdote. Interesting.
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(6 of 12 readers found this comment helpful)
Judy van Tijn, August 13, 2009 (view all comments by Judy van Tijn)
This is a transformative book for anyone who is interested in teaching, learning or equity. Dr. Wolf makes it clear how complex learning to read is and how far behind children who are not read to at home are. This is a wonderful book to understand the connection between brain research and the practical aspects of understanding the world through words on the page. THis book removes the moral and magical assessment of reading problems.
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(4 of 7 readers found this comment helpful)
ErnieY, September 9, 2007 (view all comments by ErnieY)
Maryanne Wolf, a cognitive neruscientist and childhood reading research center director, offers an enchanting tale about the lore and science of reading through the ages. This history sets the stage for her remarkable overview of the discoveries of neuroscience about the reading brain. From her penetrating interpretation of Socrates critique of writing and defense of the oral tradition to her illumination of dyslexia in its manifold forms (informed by her experience of raising a dyslexic child), she educates, captivates, and enriches as she marshals insights and provocations from science, humanities, and the arts to explore the reading brain and defend the art of reading against the hazards of the Digital Age.
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(41 of 61 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780060186395
Author:
Wolf, Maryanne
Publisher:
Harper Collins
Illustrator:
Stoodley, Catherine
Author:
by Maryanne Wolf
Subject:
General
Subject:
Linguistics
Subject:
Neuropsychology
Subject:
Neuroscience
Subject:
Reading Skills
Subject:
History
Subject:
Reading
Subject:
General science
Subject:
Reading comprehension
Subject:
Neurophysiology
Subject:
Psychology-Mind and Consciousness
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Publication Date:
20070904
Binding:
Book
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
, Y
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
9 x 6 x 1.13889 in 20 oz

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Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Medical Specialties
Health and Self-Help » Psychology » Mind and Consciousness
Reference » Readers Reference
Reference » Reading
Reference » Science Reference » General

Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.95 In Stock
Product details 320 pages HarperCollins Publishers - English 9780060186395 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Wolf, a professor of child development at Tufts University, integrates psychology and archaeology, linguistics and education, history and neuroscience in a truly path-breaking look at the development of the reading brain-a complicated phenomenon that Wolf seeks to chronicle from both the early history of humanity and the early stages of an individual's development ('unlike its component parts such as vision and speech... reading has no direct genetic program passing it on to future generations'). Along the way, Wolf introduces concepts like 'word poverty,' the situation in which children, by age five, have heard 32 million less words than their counterparts (with chilling long-term effects), and makes time for amusing and affecting anecdotes, like the only child she knew to fake a reading disorder (attempting to get back into his beloved literacy training program). Though it could probably command a book of its own, the sizable third section of the book covers the complex topic of dyslexia, explaining clearly and expertly 'what happens when the brain can't learn to read.' One of those rare books that synthesizes cutting edge, interdisciplinary research with the inviting tone of a curious, erudite friend (think Malcolm Gladwell), Wolf's first book for a general audience is an eye-opening winner, and deserves a wide readership." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Throughout, Wolf's intriguing combination of linguistic history, sociology, psychology, and neuroscience is engaging and clear."
"Review" by , "[Maryanne Wolf] displays extraordinary passion and perceptiveness concerning the reading brain, its miraculous achievements and tragic dysfunctions."
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