Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Notes: Dr. Ginger Campbell Interviews Dr. Maryanne Wolf

As I mentioned the other day, I'm immersed (now in my second reading) in Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. The author, Dr. Maryanne Wolf is the director of The Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University.

Anyone who loves reading or is passionate about helping others learn to read will find this book riveting. Among other things, Wolf sets out to tell us about the development of different writing systems over time, how the human brain "rearranges itself" to make reading possible, and what happens in the brains of those who have difficulty learning to read.

A search for interviews of Dr. Wolf led me to the Brain Science Podcast, which is conducted by Dr. Ginger Campbell, an emergency physician who has been blogging about brain science since 2006. I first listened to Podcast #24 which, over the course of about an hour, concentrates on some of the main ideas of Proust and the Squid. I would recommend it for those who do not intend to read the book or who need a refresher.

This morning, I listened to Campbell's interview of Wolf. Both are quite engaging (Wolf's voice reminds me, in a way that reveals how much of a geek I am, of Barbara Kingsolver's voice).

As I said, if you have any interest in reading, you will find this compelling. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the interview. All are from Dr. Wolf.

“Language is what prepares a child to read.”

“Nothing is better in the very beginning than the simple act of reading and speaking to your child. That does not take money; it simply takes time and love.”

“Reading is a long, beautiful process that has many parts and can be arrested in many phases of development" "…it begins literally on the lap of the beloved who is first reading to us and we’re catching by hook and by crook all kinds of information from that loved one’s voice…”

Regarding children experiencing "word poverty," who upon arrival at Kindergarten have heard millions fewer words than their peers: “… that means their brain is literally processing language at a different level with a different level of sophistication and we who are determined to educate all our children to reach their potential have to be so serious about what those differences are at the Kindergarten door.”

Regarding the ever-more-common attempts to make children learn to read at early ages (3-5, say): “On the backs of three-year-olds are being visited the anxieties of parents.” These attempts are “pedagogically and physiologically premature and unnecessary.”

Dr. Wolf also refers to this article by Niel Swinney in the Boston Globe of October 28, 2007. The article, called "Rush, Little Baby" is about the aforementioned attempts by parents to hurry up the process of learning to read.

Also, Dr. Wolf makes reference to the book Leisure: The Basis of Culture, by Josef Pieper. She mentioned it in the context of her fears that the Digital Age is robbing us of the experience of deep, meaningful, enjoyable reading.

That's all for now, though I will certainly write about and refer to this fantastic book more in the future. I wholeheartedly recommend the summary and the interview by Dr. Ginger Campbell. In fact, a perusal of the Brain Science Podcast site is likely to yield something of interest to nearly "anyone with a brain," as she puts it.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this wonderful review of Dr. Wolf's interview.

    I haven't listened to it for quite some time, so it was fun to read these highlights.