Monday, January 24, 2011

Proust and the Squid review

Booktalk: Have you ever wondered how humans developed the ability to read?  Or what exactly is going on inside the brain of a child who is learning how?  What happens when everything goes right?  What happens when it doesn't? This fascinating book will tell you all the science and a fair amount of the stories surrounding reading.  Not only will it answer your questions about reading, it will get to to start asking the right ones.

Rocks my socks: The subject is of course fascinating to me and it covers the history of learning how to read pretty well.  It goes from the beginnings of reading in civilization discussing what we can glean from archaeology all the way to what happens inside the brain of a child with reading difficulties.  While I am fairly comfortable with archaeology, my B.A. in theatre has left me somewhat lacking as far as knowledge of neuroscience goes.  Still, I found this book highly readable and was able to understand it all, largely due to the wonderful narration and copious amounts of anecdotes and analogies to guide me through the story.

Rocks in my socks: Wolf has a tendency to talk in wide, sweeping metaphors that she uses to sum up her views on the subject a bit too often and it eventually became a bit repetitive.  What I found most annoying was the fact that she has copious notes at the end, which I probably would have enjoyed, but I never really used.  This was because rather than setting them up as footnotes with in-text references via superscript number they're just listed in the back by page number.  While I often check footnotes if they come at the end of a sentence that I find interesting and want to know more about, I am unlikely to constantly interrupt the flow of my reading to check a mystery grab bag of notes for the pages I've just read.

Every book its reader: I'd hand this to any librarian or teacher who works with children.  It really contains a lot of great insight in how to best encourage literacy and teach reading.  It also contains a lot of great stuff about pre-reading like helping children become familiar with phonemes through rhyme, etc.  It would be a great read for parents with small children for this reason.  Finally, I think it is a must-read for anyone who works with or is the parent of a child with dyslexia or other reading difficulties.  The author herself has a child with dyslexia and she handles the topic in a really wonderful way that explains what is going on and what to do about it as well as emphasizing the advantages of having a different way of thinking and processing.

Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf

Support your local independent bookstore and buy it through indiebound or check it out from your local library

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