professornana (professornana) wrote,
professornana
professornana

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Accentuate the Positive

Often lately, I have been ranting and raving here. I thought I might take a break from that on this lovely spring-like day in Texas (sun shining, temps in 70s) to point you to a terrific post here: http://oedb.org/library/beginning-online-learning/your-brain-on-books-10-things-that-happen-to-our-minds-when-we-read.

The blog lists things that happen to our brains as we read. Each item on the list of 10 links to another article, the background if you will (be careful, would not want to build any background knowledge, right? then how could we do a close reading?). I wanted to make some comments on a couple of the items mentioned in this posting.

1. While the blog suggests we create pictures when we read, I think we actually go a step further in many cases. I actually can see the book play out in my head, sort of like a movie or video. I see more than snapshots when I am fully engaged in a book. This is a large part of the reason why I generally avoid movies based on books. I saw LIFE OF PI as I was reading it. Ditto HUNGER GAMES and others. Most of the time movies are a disappointment. I can think of few movies that lived up to their books.

2. I love the connection to spoken words and audiobooks made in point #2 in the blog. After listening to hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of audiobooks this past year, you might think I would be avoiding them at all costs. Nope, I have one on CDs for the car and 5 loaded up on the iPod. Someone asked why I love audiobooks. There is not a simple, single answer. I love that I can extend the number of books I can read by having some available to me in audio. I listen while driving, working around the house, on airplanes, and sometimes when my eyes are just so tired I cannot read for the blurriness.

3. One element here suggests that reading is almost like living the experience. We call that reading for vicarious experience when we talk about the stages in the development of lifelong readers. It is one of the reasons why I am not concerned about kids reading intense books or books about drugs, etc. Books provide the safe confines for exploration (think of it as the rides at Disney and other theme parks that let us explore mountains, glaciers, jungles, etc. from the safe confines of our "car"). Think of all the kids who read ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET by Judy Blume as a way of exploring what would eventually happen or was already happening as puberty strikes. And there are books that have permitted me access to dark corners of the mind (IN DARKNESS, I HUNT KILLERS come to mind).

4. Finally, reading can help us develop empathy. I have been talking about this for years in classes about literature for kids. Empathy is stronger than sympathy. Empathy makes us better at understanding the "other" at seeing from someone else's perspective. WONDER was one of those books for so many readers this past year. There are countless others. I want kids who are empathetic. I want adults who are empathetic as well. Don's we all.

There are some limits to this piece as it tends to draw on neuroscience and you know that not everything can be measured when it comes to reading (if you do not know that, might I suggest you read some of the past musings here at the blog?). A committee I serve on right now is using the term INTANGIBLES. I love this term: it is purposefully vague. It talks about the stuff we cannot quite pin down. In this time when there are attempts to reduce everything to numbers and other data, I prefer the uncertainty of the INTANGIBLES. Actually that word might just be the best one to describe why we are sometimes drawn to something (right now I am eating chocolate with sea salt in it, my stars is it wonderful) or someone. Embrace the INTANGIBLES today. See what happens (and the chocolate with sea salt--definitely worth the taste test, too).
Tags: brains, reading, transformative
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