Reader, Come Home
eBook - ePub

Reader, Come Home

The Reading Brain in a Digital World

Maryanne Wolf

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  1. 272 pagine
  2. English
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eBook - ePub

Reader, Come Home

The Reading Brain in a Digital World

Maryanne Wolf

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The author of the acclaimed Proust and the Squid follows up with a lively, ambitious, and deeply informative book that considers the future of the reading brain and our capacity for critical thinking, empathy, and reflection as we become increasingly dependent on digital technologies.

A decade ago, Maryanne Wolf's Proust and the Squid revealed what we know about how the brain learns to read and how reading changes the way we think and feel. Since then, the ways we process written language have changed dramatically with many concerned about both their own changes and that of children. New research on the reading brain chronicles these changes in the brains of children and adults as they learn to read while immersed in a digitally dominated medium.

Drawing deeply on this research, this book comprises a series of letters Wolf writes to us—her beloved readers—to describe her concerns and her hopes about what is happening to the reading brain as it unavoidably changes to adapt to digital mediums. Wolf raises difficult questions, including:

  • Will children learn to incorporate the full range of "deep reading" processes that are at the core of the expert reading brain?
  • Will the mix of a seemingly infinite set of distractions for children's attention and their quick access to immediate, voluminous information alter their ability to think for themselves?
  • With information at their fingertips, will the next generation learn to build their own storehouse of knowledge, which could impede the ability to make analogies and draw inferences from what they know?
  • Will all these influences change the formation in children and the use in adults of "slower" cognitive processes like critical thinking, personal reflection, imagination, and empathy that comprise deep reading and that influence both how we think and how we live our lives?
  • How can we preserve deep reading processes in future iterations of the reading brain?

Concerns about attention span, critical reasoning, and over-reliance on technology are never just about children—Wolf herself has found that, though she is a reading expert, her ability to read deeply has been impacted as she has become increasingly dependent on screens.

Wolf draws on neuroscience, literature, education, and philosophy and blends historical, literary, and scientific facts with down-to-earth examples and warm anecdotes to illuminate complex ideas that culminate in a proposal for a biliterate reading brain. Provocative and intriguing, Reader, Come Home is a roadmap that provides a cautionary but hopeful perspective on the impact of technology on our brains and our most essential intellectual capacities—and what this could mean for our future.

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1. “We are in a different phase”: J. Enriquez and S. Gullans, Evolving Ourselves: How Unnatural Selection and Nonrandom Mutation Are Changing Life on Earth (New York: Current, 2017), 180, 259.
2. Reading is an act: D. L. Ulin, The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time (Seattle, WA: Sasquatch Books, 2010), 150.
Letter One: Reading, the Canary in the Mind
1. “Fielding calls out”: B. Collins, “Dear Reader,” in The Art of Drowning (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995), 3.
2. galactic changes: I refer both to work of futurists such as Enriquez and Gullans, Evolving Ourselves: How Unnatural Selection and Nonrandom Mutation Are Changing Life on Earth and also to a new study by astrophysicists at Northwestern University that now indicates that each of us contains the stuff (atoms of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, etc.) of not only our own galaxy but also other galaxies. See Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, July 26, 2017.
3. human beings were never: This is the beginning of my book Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain (New York: HarperCollins, 2007).
4. Duino Elegies: R. M. Rilke, Duineser Elegien, trans. A. Poulin, Jr. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977).
5. Peace Corps–like stint in rural Hawaii: This is the project sponsored by University of Notre Dame in the CILA program. Eric Ward and I and Henry and Tony Lemoine volunteered to be teachers in a school in Waialua, Hawaii, where there were no longer enough teachers for the children and where most of the parents had come from the Philippine Islands to work on the sugar plantation there.
6. Proust and the Squid: See Wolf, Proust and the Squid.
7. Steven Hirsh: Professor of classics, Tufts University, to whom I continue to be grateful for his almost yearlong tutorial on Socrates and Plato.
8. Walter Ong: W. Ong, Orality and Literacy (London: Methuen, 1982).
9. part of deep reading: First used by Sven Birkerts in Gutenberg Elegies and used more specifically (cognitively) by me in my research. See M. Wolf and M. Barzillai, “The Importance of Deep Reading,” Educational Leadership 66, no. 6 (2009): 32–37. I am indebted to Nicholas Carr for his general incorporation of the term in his book aptly called The Shallows.
10. we have choices to make: Enriquez and Gullans, Evolving Ourselves.
11. “fertile miracle of communication”: M. Proust, On Reading, ed. J. Autret, trans. W. Burford (New York: Macmillan, 1971; originally published 1906), 31.
12. Letters to a Young Poet: R. M. Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, trans. M. D. H. Norton (New York: W. W. Norton, 1954). See also Rilke, Briefe an einen jungen Dichter (Wiesbaden: Insel-Verlag, 1952). These letters were exchanged with Franz Xaver Kappus between 1902 and 1908.
13. Six Memos for the Next Millennium: I. Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988).
14. Kant’s three questions: See J. S. Dunne, Love’s Mind: An Essay on Contemplative Life (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1993).
15. global literacy: See the work that my colleagues at Curious Learning: A Global Literacy Project are pursuing in the last chapter of M. Wolf, Tales of Literacy for the 21st Century (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2016). This work has been presented at four meetings of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Vatican City. Chapters include M. Wolf et al., “The Reading Brain, Global Literacy, and the Eradication of Poverty,” Proceedings of Bread and Brain, Education and Poverty (Vatican City: Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, 2014);...

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