By Carolyn D. Cowen
Maryanne Wolf has done it again. She has written another seminal book destined to become a dog-eared, well-thumbed, often-referenced treasure on your bookshelf.
Like Proust and the Squid and Tales of Literacy for the 21st Century, Wolf weaves her background in neuroscience, education, literature, and technology into a thoughtful exploration of various complex issues related to the reading brain. In her newest book, Reader Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World, Wolf challenges her readers to read and think deeply about, well, reading and thinking deeply.
Written in an epistolary form (as letters to her readers), Wolf outlines her concerns about changes in the brain as it adapts to digital mediums. Some of her thought-provoking questions include the following:
- “Will the next generation, immersed in multitasking and digital mediums, learn to develop ‘slower’ and essential cognitive processes such as critical thinking, reflection, and empathy—all parts of deep reading?”
- “Will the seemingly continuous demands for our attention and immediate access to voluminous information change the development of personal storehouses of knowledge and affect our ability to make analogies, draw inferences, and arrive at independent judgments?”
- “Will the chain of digital influences ultimately impact critical analysis and empathy in our citizens—core requirements of a democracy—and will potential changes in these capacities leave us more susceptible to fake news and demagoguery?”
Clearly, these important questions have much bearing on today’s challenging political-social environment. Wolf’s letters culminate in a hopeful proposal for a “biliterate reading brain.” And what is that? Ah, you will need to read Reader Come Home to find out. But you will not regret one moment you spend reading and thinking deeply about the intriguing letters Maryanne Wolf has written to you.
In a recent Q&A, she quoted Tolkien—that his work was intended ”to rekindle hearts in a world that’s grown chill.” Certainly Reader Come Home conveys a cautionary message, but it also will rekindle your heart and help illuminate promising paths ahead.
Carolyn D. Cowen, Ed.M., CDT, is the Digital Media Strategist/Content Editor for the International Dyslexia Association’s Examiner. She is an educator and social entrepreneur known for developing and managing programs and initiatives that improve the teaching-learning landscape for students with learning differences. These days, she focuses on harnessing the power of digital media to make complex information accessible and actionable for the spectrum of decision makers involved in creating change on behalf of students with dyslexia and other reading challenges. Carolyn also focuses on helping nonprofits strategically power the mission with the message. She serves on the Board of Trustees for the Newgrange School, Ann Robinowitz Education Center, and Laurel School and on the Board of Directors for the Research Institute for Learning and Development. Follow her on Twitter @cdcowen.
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