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For those of you who still read stuff . . .

The New Yorker has a really cool article on declining literacy, what goes on in the brain when people read/learn to read, the differences between the brains of the literate and illiterate, etcetera.

It makes me realize what a relic/minority I am in my reading habits. Though this one passage-

"In a study published this year, experimenters varied the way that people took in a PowerPoint presentation about the country of Mali. Those who were allowed to read silently were more likely to agree with the statement “The presentation was interesting,” and those who read along with an audiovisual commentary were more likely to agree with the statement “I did not learn anything from this presentation.” The silent readers remembered more, too, a finding in line with a series of British studies in which people who read transcripts of television newscasts, political programs, advertisements, and science shows recalled more information than those who had watched the shows themselves."

-and some other things about how a proficient reader finds reading effortless made me realize learning styles like mine are more widespread than I thought. I prefer to learn about things by reading about them rather than to be lectured, I know I absorb information so much better that way. Part of it is being able to do it at my own speed, reading some parts very past and others slowly to understand them.

Obviously some people have learning disabilities and/or have simply been deprived of the proper education to be a good reader, but otherwise I think people are more like me than I'd thought. So why are they not reading? Probably part of it is a lack of discovery of things they can ENJOY reading, and greater enjoyment of other media. And along with that, a lack of time to spend on reading/motivation to spend that precious time doing so. Lack of enjoyment in reading may go along with a lack of enjoyment in learning. Damn you schools, you don't just need to teach them these things, you need to encourage them to ENJOY them. If kids like to learn and to read, they'll do a lot of your work for you.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 28th, 2007 05:54 pm (UTC)
how a proficient reader finds reading effortless

I am very skeptical about this claim. I'm a proficient reader, but whether I find reading effortless depends entirely on the reading material. Some reading is effortless. My law school reading took forever.
Dec. 28th, 2007 06:15 pm (UTC)
Sorry, that was apparently an oversimplification on my part. I would say that though the act of reading can be effortless (if you're a proficient reader reading something that doesn't challenge your vocabulary too hard) if you're trying to learn difficult material the learning may be anything but!

I'll stop trying to paraphrase and note part of the article that relates to this:

'Scans show that when a child first starts to read she has to use more of her brain than adults do. Broad regions light up in both hemispheres. As a child’s neurons specialize in recognizing letters and become more efficient, the regions activated become smaller.

'At some point, as a child progresses from decoding to fluent reading, the route of signals through her brain shifts. Instead of passing along a “dorsal route” through occipital, temporal, and parietal regions in both hemispheres, reading starts to move along a faster and more efficient “ventral route,” which is confined to the left hemisphere. With the gain in time and the freed-up brainpower, Wolf suggests, a fluent reader is able to integrate more of her own thoughts and feelings into her experience. “The secret at the heart of reading,” Wolf writes, is “the time it frees for the brain to have thoughts deeper than those that came before.” Imaging studies suggest that in many cases of dyslexia the right hemisphere never disengages, and reading remains effortful.'
Dec. 28th, 2007 11:28 pm (UTC)
Basically, what it sounds like she's saying is that the mechanics of reading become automatic. We don't have to figure out what the letters 'W H A T' mean to be able to perceive it as 'what'. Reading a language in which we are proficient, we process the meaning rather than attempting to processes the text medium.
Dec. 28th, 2007 07:52 pm (UTC)
that goes along with one of my fundamental theories of teaching English as a Second Language, that for every student, there is something that they will read like an addictive drug. I haven't fully field tested that theory though.
Jan. 2nd, 2008 10:25 pm (UTC)
I think it's a good theory (barring learning disabilities that make reading too hard to be pleasant). Unfortunately, a lot of people don't have the benefit of exposure to enough variety of interesting reading material, so they don't discover their potential textual addiction.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 29th, 2007 05:55 pm (UTC)
Short story collections are notoriously hard to sell. I think maybe people fear they won't like all the stories, whereas with a novel, it's just one item to like or dislike.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 29th, 2007 06:21 pm (UTC)
Not the ones who never read, presumably. The libraries are such a wonderful and useful tool, I don't think enough people know how easy to use and full of cool stuff (not just books, even) they are.
Dec. 29th, 2007 06:32 pm (UTC)
Well, the other thing is, if short story collections don't sell well, less of them get printed.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 29th, 2007 07:14 pm (UTC)
What effort does it really require, barring learning disabilities/poor education?
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


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