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Read: Words on pages can be powerful tools -- if used correctly

Wonderful essay/book-review by Jessa Crispin, found at The Smart Set

It starts when you’re in the first grade. All of a sudden, reading is no longer this exciting thing you just figured out how to do, it has become “good for you.” You’re given free books through a program that says Reading Is Fun-damental, way before any of your teachers will tell you what “fundamental” means. Soon after you’re bribed with a free pizza from Pizza Hut if you can finish five whole books. The message is clear: reading is not something you’re supposed to enjoy, it’s something that will make you a better person.

It continues on into adulthood. We’re given continuous updates on the state of reading in our country as if it were the unemployment rate. Orlando Bloom shows up on posters in libraries, holding a book that you’re slightly surprised to see is right side up. “Read!” he tells us. Read, and you can be as effeminate as he is. If you’re the type of person who enjoys reading — and not just enjoys it, but takes four books on a five-hour flight just in case you finish one and then your back up book isn’t as compelling as you thought it would be and the thought of not having reading material fills you with dread — all of this can be confusing. I would get a lot more reading done if you would stop yelling in my ear about how important reading is, thank you very much.

For all this talk about how reading is good for you, is it really? Can reading actually change you? Maryanne Wolf says yes, starting with when you first learn to read. In Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, she explains how the human brain did not evolve to develop a written language. Instead, the culture evolved to develop one, and the brain had to adapt certain areas previously used for vision, object recognition, and abstract thought. Different languages use different parts of the brain, depending on whether those languages are written in alphabet or logosyllabic form (such as Chinese).

“There are no genes specific only to reading… Unlike its component parts such as vision and speech, which are genetically organized, reading has no direct genetic program passing it on to future generations.” Every child has to rewire her little brain to figure out what Dick and Jane are up to this week. If they don’t learn to read and spend their lives illiterate, they will literally think differently than literate people do.

The more you read and the better you become at reading comprehension, the more of your brain becomes engaged in the act. Wolf calls this the “expert reading” level. When you read a text, your brain brings forth all related experiences from your life and from your reading history. As an expert reader, a more significant portion of your brain starts integrating that material into your thought processes.

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I MISS YOU XINE!! Sorry I haven't been around, just crazy, but I always think of you sweetie and loved reading your post. As usual. Very inspiring! HUGS!