I really should have purchased this book; I have renewed it three times since the library located it via inter-library loan for me. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryann Wolf, is a tome, and can be quite intimidating – at the same time it has been one of the most profound and stimulating books I have read in the last decade. It wasn’t until I first went into the classroom as a newbie special education teacher, that I realized how profoundly different the struggling readers assigned to me needed reading instruction delivered. It was imperative that creative, uncommon and varied methods be implemented; these children learned differently than their peers. The Masters Program I had just completed could never have prepared me for the mysteries and challenges I would encounter in the next thirty years of teaching the art of reading.
In her book Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, MaryAnn Wolf, Tufts University Cognitive Neuroscientist and child development expert, explains how the brain was never formatted for reading in the first place. She states that, “Reading is a human invention that reflects how the brain rearranges itself to learn something new”. She goes on to say that in the case of the dyslexic child it is due to the different brain wiring which doesn’t allow reading to be grasped in the way an average reader is taught. She writes with a conviction of what difficulties occur when a child does not learn to read on schedule for the child, parent and the teacher. She painstakingly describes ways that intervention can rewire the brain and get dyslexic students on the road to reading before collective expectancies deem the child disabled.
Wolf closely scrutinizes the development of language in children from birth to age five, walking the reader through the varied aspects of language development – phonological, semantic, syntactic, morphological, pragmatic, et al. She recaps how by eighteen months everything has a name just as Helen Keller had her Eureka moment. Wolf expounds on the debilitating deficiencies that effect children from underprivileged language environments. Complete confirmation that during these critical years the simple acts of talking to and reading with your child are the most fundamental tools you can give children prior to formal schooling.
Wolf confronts the subject at the heart of her study, dyslexia, a matter that concerns her not only as a researcher, but also as a parent of a dyslexic child. The premises that have dominated dyslexia research for the past hundred years includes a list of famous dyslexic brainiac’s (Thomas Edison, Leonardo daVinci, Albert Einstein), the struggling reader may actually be on the other side of the spectrum intellectually and we, as a society, need to be open to what brain research is proving as well as looking back at the history of some of our super stars. (BTW, they were all left-handed – but that is another blog.)
You may be interested in: Five Fab iPad Apps to Help Students With Dyslexia
*least pic from symbolmastery.com