Synopses & Reviews
An investigation into the science of hearing, child language acquisition, neuroplasticity, brain development, and Deaf culture.
A mother notices her toddler is not learning to talk the way his brothers did
Is something wrong? Her search for answers is a journey into the mysteries of the human brain.
Lydia Denworths third son, Alex, was nearly two when he was identified with significant hearing loss that was likely to get worse. Her sweet boy with the big brown eyes had probably never heard her lullabies.
Denworth knew the importance of enrichment to the developing brain but had never contemplated the opposite: Deprivation. How would a childs brain grow outside the world of sound most of us take for granted? How would he communicate? Would he learn to read and writewerent phonics a key to literacy? How long did they have until Alexs brain changed irrevocably? In her drive to understand the choicesstarting with the angry debate between supporters of American Sign Language and the controversial but revolutionary cochlear implantDenworth soon found that every decision carried weighty scientific, social and even political implications. As she grappled with the complex collisions between the emerging field of brain plasticity, the possibilities of modern technology, and the changing culture of the Deaf community, she gained a new appreciation of the exquisite relationship between sound, language and learning. It became clear that Alexs earsand indeed everyoneswere just the beginning.
An acclaimed science journalist as well as a mother, Denworth interviewed the worlds experts on language development, inventors of ground-breaking technology, Deaf leaders, and neuroscientists at the frontiers of research. She presents insights from studies of everything from at-risk kids in Head Start to noisy cocktail party conversation, from songbirds to signal processing, and from the invention of the telephone to sign language.
Weaving together tales from the centuries-long quest to develop the cochlear implant and simultaneous leaps in neuroscientific knowledge against a tumultuous backdrop of identity politics, I Can Hear You Whisper shows how sound sculpts our childrens brains and the life changing consequences of that delicate process.
"The central premise of this book by Bronson (What Should I Do with My Life?) and Merryman, a Washington Post journalist, is that many of modern society's most popular strategies for raising children are in fact backfiring because key points in the science of child development and behavior have been overlooked. Two errant assumptions are responsible for current distorted child-rearing habits, dysfunctional school programs and wrongheaded social policies: first, things work in children the same way they work in adults and, second, positive traits necessarily oppose and ward off negative behavior. These myths, and others, are addressed in 10 provocative chapters that cover such issues as the inverse power of praise (effort counts more than results); why insufficient sleep adversely affects kids' capacity to learn; why white parents don't talk about race; why kids lie; that evaluation methods for 'giftedness' and accompanying programs don't work; why siblings really fight (to get closer). Grownups who trust in 'old-fashioned' common-sense child-rearing the definitely un-PC variety, with no negotiation or parent-child equality will have less patience for this book than those who fear they lack innate parenting instincts. The chatty reportage and plentiful anecdotes belie the thorough research backing up numerous cited case studies, experts' findings and examination of successful progressive programs at work in schools. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A provocative collection of essays popularizing recent research that challenges conventional wisdom about raising children.... A skilled, accessible presentation of scientific research in layman's language." Kirkus Reviews
"NurtureShock is one of the most important books you will read this year. Bronson and Merryman move parenting out of the realm of folklore and into the realm of science and reveal what decades of studies teach us about the complexities of raising, happy, healthy, self-motivated kids. As a writer, I was impressed by the prodigious research and keen analysis. As a father, I was consumed with taking notes and exhilarated by all I learned." Daniel H. Pink
Praise for I Can Hear You Whisper
"Writing with clarity and style, Denworth serves as a capable guide to a world that few with full hearing are fully aware of...A skilled science translator, Denworth makes decibels, teslas and brain plasticity understandable to all." - Washington Post
"In this moving and informative book, former Newsweek reporter Denworth recounts her emotional and intellectual quest to help her deaf infant son hear. [...] This is a book that parents, particularly of deaf children, may find indispensable." - Publishers Weekly
"All parents will recognize the moments of both terror and pride that mark the journey; parents of deaf children will garner both information and insights." - Kirkus Reviews
"I Can Hear You Whisper is a triptych of reportage, popular science, and memoir. As reportage into the controversy surrounding cochlear implants it's both timely and rigorous, though Denworth admits her own pro-implant bias. As popular science, it's enthralling, offering a window into the latest research into perception, language, and the weaving of conscious awareness. As a memoir it is tender and involving; accompanying Denworth and her son on their journey, and imagining making the same journey with my own children, I was often deeply moved." -- The New York Review of Books
"Eloquently explains how hearing works...An excellent book for anyone with deafness in the family or with a desire to better understand how people hear, why hearing loss occurs, and how it is treated." - Booklist
“Lydia Denworth has written a beautiful book that combines superb scientific reporting with powerful and deeply enjoyable storytelling. Her quest to acquire every shred of knowledge she can to help her deaf son is an odyssey that all parents who worry about their children (i.e. all parents) can intimately relate to. Her discoveries about the workings of language and the intricacies of brain development will change the way you think about hearing, speaking, and selfhood. And her fascinating exploration of the politics of deaf identity is sure to spark a larger conversation about how we talk about, think about, and treat children with special needs in our time.” —Judith Warner, author of Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety
“Read this if you have ears or ever interact with humans. What a moving and brilliant tour of the scientific, emotional and political landscape of hearing impairment. As a reader, I'm grateful to Lydia Denworth. As a writer, I'm jealous.” —David Shenk, author of The Genius in All of Us and The Forgetting
“Denworth provides a lucid, engaging, and thoughtful description of the science of hearing. If you are interested in hearing, speech, and language —as a parent, educator, clinician, or scientist—this book fills an important gap and is a terrific read. Careful about the science and sensitive to the psychological complexities, Denworth provides a masterful account of the path from ear to the brain, from sounds to words.” —David Poeppel, Professor of Psychology and Neural Science, New York University
“Lydia Denworths beautiful personal account and thorough investigation connect the dots between her sons hearing loss, the essential import of spoken language on the developing brain, and what parents, doctors, and teachers can gain from a deeper understanding of how the mind acquires language.” —Dana Suskind, MD, Professor of Surgery at the University of Chicago and Director of The Thirty Million Words Initiative
“I Can Hear You Whisper is both an affecting and searching personal story and a fascinating job of science reporting, specifically the science of audiology—how we hear, why some of us don't, and how an amazing, but controversial, technology was invented. Lydia Denworths son Alex, the beautiful boy at the center of the personal story, is lucky to have a mother like her. The rest of us are lucky to have such a perceptive, lucid, and touching book.” —Richard Bernstein, author of A Girl Named Faithful Plum
"The authors throw open the doors on this research to create a book that is not only groundbreaking but compelling as well. Even if you don't have children, or your kids are grown, you should find the revelations about how the brain works and the rigors and frustrations of the scientific process captivating . . . We see [Bronson and Merryman] doggedly digging for answers to confounding questions . . . Bronson, with his gentle, conversational style, lays out every conundrum clearly, and shows all the steps the researchers took to ensure accurate results, including tweaking their testing methods when results were inconclusive or seemed flawed. In a sense, it's "Science for Dummies" - explaining cutting-edge research to a lay readership... Riveting."
--San Francisco Chronicle
"Engaging . . . It's not didactic - more of a revelatory journey . . . Bronson relays some startling scientific findings . . . Nobody's ever done this before in a systematic way . . . Using the simple technique of speaking to researchers and observing them at work, Bronson and Merryman avoid the smugness common to the parenting oeuvre, which is often rather self-satisfied and/or guilt-inducing. This book's great value is to show that much of what we take to be the norms of parenting - i.e. what's good for children - is actually non-scientific and based on our own adult social anxieties . . . This is a funny, clever, sensible book. Every parent should read it."--The Financial Times
"The least touchy-feely [parenting book] ever . . . Bronson delights in showing that most parental intuition and supposedly common knowledge about child rearing is just bullshit, and he has the facts to prove it. Much like in his previous work, he's entered a genre known for emotional cheese, and produced a book that's hard to put down and easy to take seriously.
"Bronson is a writer who can capture unwieldy topics such as Silicon Valley (The Nudist on the Late Shift), family (Why Do I Love These People?) and big decisions (What Should I Do with My Life?). Now, in Nurtureshock, he's taking on child rearing, and raising some issues about adolescent intelligence, language acquisition, early friendships and aggression that will surprise even well-informed parents."--Time Out New York
"A provocative collection of essays popularizing recent research that challenges conventional wisdom about raising children...[Bronson and Merryman] ably explore a range of subjects of interest to parents... Their findings are often surprising. For example, in schools with greater racial diversity, the odds that a child will have a friend of a different race decrease; listening to "baby DVDs" does not increase an infant's rate of word acquisition; children with inconsistent and permissive fathers are nearly as aggressive in school as children of distant and disengaged fathers. Bronson and Merryman call attention to what they see as two basic errors in thinking about children. The first is the fallacy of similar effect-the assumption that what is true for adults is also true for children. The second-the fallacy of the good/bad dichotomy-is the assumption that a trait or factor is either good or bad, when in fact it may be both (e.g., skill at lying may be a sign of intelligence, and empathy may become a tool of aggression.) The authors also provide helpful notes for each chapter and an extensive bibliography. A skilled, accessible presentation of scientific research in layman's language."--Kirkus
"Bronson is a modern Studs Terkel."--Glasgow Herald
"Irresistible... [NurtureShock] will make you a better mom or dad without you even knowing it."
"Adds insight to irresistible nonfiction subject matter... destined to turn up in conversations among working parents."
--Susan Dominus, New York Times
"Some of the most groundbreaking research on children conducted in years... will knock your socks off."
"The most important book I've read this year... If you only read one thing I review, please make it this."
"A highly readable Malcolm Gladwell-esque look at the social science of child rearing."
-- 'XX Factor,' Slate.com
-- Washington Post
Astonishing... prepare to be slack-jawed... This tour de force is one of the best parenting psychology books in years and will likely be seismic in influence."
--Library Journal (Starred Review)
"The Freakonomics of child rearing... a fantastic read... a wake-up call for parents."
--Good Morning America
"As he did in What Should I Do With My Life?
, his 2002 bestseller, Bronson has adroitly polished a fairly unoriginal subject into high-gloss pop psychology. This isn't the big news of the day, but the small, consequential news that affects our daily lives; it's the stuff of breakfast shows and private-school parenting seminars. It's 'What Should I Do With My Kids?'"
--The New York Times Review of Books
Compelling... Captivating... Explains cutting-edge research to the lay readership... It's riveting."
-- San Francisco Chronicle
"Engaging.... revelatory... A funny, clever, sensible book. Every parent should read it."
"The least touchy-feely [parenting book] ever... hard to put down and easy to take seriously."
--"A.V. Club," The Onion
"Bronson's genial voice and enthusiasm work well as he narrates his and Merryman's paradigm-shifting text on parenting. In general, Bronson's energy will pull in listeners; he's at his best when discussing the theory and science behind it. His tone and emphasis help guide listeners through sometimes-complex subjects and terms."--AudioFile
In a world of modern, involved, caring parents, why are so many kids aggressive and cruel? Where is intelligence hidden in the brain, and why does that matter? Why do cross-racial friendships decrease in schools that are more integrated? If 98% of kids think lying is morally wrong, then why do 98% of kids lie? What's the single most important thing that helps infants learn language?
NurtureShock is a groundbreaking collaboration between award-winning science journalists Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. They argue that when it comes to children, we've mistaken good intentions for good ideas. With impeccable storytelling and razor-sharp analysis, they demonstrate that many of modern society's strategies for nurturing children are in fact backfiring because key twists in the science have been overlooked.
Nothing like a parenting manual, the authors' work is an insightful exploration of themes and issues that transcend children's (and adults') lives.
Award-winning science journalists Bronson and Merryman argue that when it comes to children, parents have mistaken good intentions for good ideas. The authors demonstrate that many of modern society's strategies for nurturing children are in fact backfiring.
This groundbreaking collaboration between award-winning science journalists Bronson and Merryman demonstrates that many of modern society's strategies for nurturing children are, in fact, backfiring because key twists in the science have been overlooked.
An investigation into the science of hearing, child language acquisition, neuroplasticity, brain development, and Deaf culture spurred by Lydia Denworths discovery that her son couldnt hear her lullabies and the familys life-altering decision to give him a cochlear implant.
Lydia Denworths third son, Alex, was almost two when he was diagnosed with profound and progressive hearing loss. As both a science writer and the mother of young children, Denworth was steeped in messages about the importance of enrichment to the developing brain. She became determined to do whatever it took to allow Alex to hear and acquire spoken language, a quest that ultimately led to a controversial piece of emergent superhero technology”: the cochlear implant.
In this engrossing journey to the frontiers of science, readers will learn why sound is so important to the developing brain, what new possibilities come from the latest research, and what exactly is going on when you focus your hearing at a cocktail party. Denworth goes beyond her personal experience with her son, interviewing the worlds leading experts on child language development and hearing technology, leaders in the deaf community, and neuroscientists.
I Can Hear You Whisper weaves together Alexs story with the tales of two scientific revolutions: the centuries-long quest to develop the cochlear implant and sciences changing understanding of the brains remarkable plasticityall told against the sometimes-incendiary backdrop of identity politics and medical ethics.
One of the most influential books about children ever published, NurtureShock offers a revolutionary new perspective on children that upends a library's worth of conventional wisdom. With impeccable storytelling and razor-sharp analysis, the authors demonstrate that many of modern society's strategies for nurturing children are in fact backfiring--because key twists in the science have been overlooked. Nothing like a parenting manual, NurtureShock gets to the core of how we grow, learn and live.
Released in hardcover in September 2009, NurtureShock remained on the New York Times best seller list for three months, and was one of Amazon's best selling books for 2009. The book has become a worldwide phenomenon with editions published around the world - in fifteen languages, to date.
In addition to Bronson and Merryman's writings on praise -- first made famous in New York magazine -- there are nine more equally groundbreaking chapters. Among the topics covered:
Why the most brutal person in a child's life is often a sibling, and how a single aspect of their preschool-aged play can determine their relationship as adults.
When is it too soon - or too late - to teach a child about race? Children in diverse schools are less likely to have a cross-racial friendship, not more - so is school diversity backfiring?
Millions of families are fighting to get their kids into private schools and advanced programs as early as possible. But schools are missing the best kids, 73% of the time - the new neuroscience explains why.
Why are kids - even those from the best of homes - still aggressive and cruel? The answer is found in a rethinking of parental conflict, discipline, television's unexpected influence, and social dominance.
Parents are desperate to jump-start infants' language skills. Recently, scientists have discovered a series of natural techniques that are astonishing in their efficacy - it's not baby videos, sign language, or even the richness of language exposure. It's nothing you've heard before.
The founder and director of the Thirty Million Words Initiative, Professor Dana Suskind, explains why the most importantand#151;and astoundingly simpleand#151;thing you can do for your childand#8217;s future success in life is to talk to him or her, reveals the recent science behind this truth, and outlines precisely how parents can best put it into practice.
The research is in: Academic achievement begins on the first day of life with the first word said by a cooing mother just after delivery.
A study by researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley in 1995 found that some children heard thirty million fewer words by their fourth birthdays than others. The children who heard more words were better prepared when they entered school. These same kids, when followed into third grade, had bigger vocabularies, were stronger readers, and got higher test scores. This disparity in learning is referred to as the achievement gap.
Professor Dana Suskind, MD, learned of this thirty million word gap in the course of her work as a cochlear implant surgeon at University of Chicago Medical School and began a new research program along with her sister-in-law, Beth Suskind, to find the best ways to bridge that gap.and#160;The Thirty Million Word Initiative has developed programs for parents to show the kind of parent-child communication that enables optimal neural development and has tested the programs in and around Chicago across demographic groups.and#160;They boil down to getting parents to follow the three Ts: Tune in to what your child is doing; Talk more to your child using lots of descriptive words; and Take turns with your child as you engage in conversation.and#160;Parents are shown how to make the words they serve up more enriching. For example, instead of telling a child, and#147;Put your shoes on,and#8221; one might say instead, and#147;It is time to go out. What do we have to do?and#8221; The lab's new five-year longitudinal research program has just received funding so they can further corroborate their results.and#160;
The neuroscience of brain plasticity is some of the most valuable and revolutionary medical science being done today. It enables us to think and do better.and#160;It is making a difference in the lives of both the old and young.and#160; If you care for children, this landmark book is essential reading.
About the Author
Professor Dana Suskind, MD
, is both founder and director of the Thirty Million Words Initiative, which is based on scientific research that demonstrates the critical importance of early language exposure on the developing child.and#160;Dr. Suskind received the University of Chicago Medical Faculty Award as and#147;Distinguished Leader in Program Innovation.and#8221; She is an advisor on Hillary Clintonand#8217;s Too Small to Fail initiative and part of the White House initiative on creating a pathway to ending the achievement gap. She lives in Chicago, Illinois.
Beth Suskind is codirector of the Thirty Million Words Initiative and is integral to translating the complexities of the science behind their research into a curriculum. She lives in Chicago, Illinois.