Sunday, September 09, 2007

Altering Evolution
Through Reading

'We were never born to read. Human beings invented reading only a few thousand years ago. And with this invention, we rearranged the very organization of our brain, which in turn expanded the ways we were able to think, which altered the intellectual evolution of our species. Reading is one of the single most remarkable inventions in history; the ability to record history is one of its consequences. Our ancestors' invention could come about only because of the human brain's extraordinary ability to make new connections among its existing structures, a process made possible by the brain's ability to be shaped by experience. This plasticity at the heart of the brain's design forms the basis for much of who we are, and who we might become...Learning to read is an almost miraculous story filled with many developmental processes that come together to give the child entry into the teeming underlife of word usable by the child. Socrates and the ancient Indian scholars feared that reading words, rather than hearing and speaking them, would prevent our ability to know their many layers of meaning, sound, function and possibility. In fact, early reading exposes--during the moment of acquisition--how many of the multiple, older structures contribute to each layer as they come together to form the brain's new circuitry for reading. Studying the development of early reading allows us to peek into the underpinnings of our species' accomplishment, beginning with the interrelated processes that prepared the child in the first five years and that expand in different, predictable ways over the rest of the development of reading.'
--From Proust and the Squid--The Story and Science of the Reading Brain.


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