Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain

Maryanne Wolf, Author, Catherine Stoodley, Illustrator . HarperCollins $25.95 (308p) ISBN 978-0060186395

Wolf, a professor of child development at Tufts University, integrates psychology and archeology, linguistics and education, history and neuroscience in a truly pathbreaking look at the development of the reading brain—a complicated phenomenon that Wolf seeks to chronicle from both the early history of humanity and the early stages of an individual's development (“[u]nlike its component parts such as vision and speech... reading has no direct [genetic] program passing it on to future generations”). Along the way, Wolf introduces concepts like “word poverty,” the situation in which children by age five have heard 32 million fewer words than their counterparts (with chilling long-term effects), and makes time for amusing and affecting anecdotes, such as the only child she knew to fake a reading disorder (in an attempt to get back into his beloved literacy training program). Though it could probably command a book of its own, the sizable third section of the book covers the complex topic of dyslexia, explaining clearly and expertly “what happens when the brain can't learn to read.” One of those rare books that synthesizes cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research with the inviting tone of a curious, erudite friend (think Malcolm Gladwell), Wolf's first book for a general audience is an eye-opening winner and deserves a wide readership. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 12/31/2007
Release date: 09/01/2007
Paperback - 306 pages - 978-0-06-093384-5
Compact Disc - 7 pages - 978-1-59887-736-6
Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-06-201063-6
Paperback - 310 pages - 978-1-84831-030-8
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