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“While reading, we can leave our own consciousness, and pass over into the consciousness of another person, another age, another culture. "Passing over," a term used by the theologian John Dunne, describes the process through which reading enables us to try on, identify with, and ultimately enter for a brief time the wholly different perspective of another person's consciousness. When we pass over into how a knight thinks, how a slave feels, how a heroine behaves, and how an evildoer can regret or deny wrongdoing, we never come back quite the same; sometimes we're inspired, sometimes saddened, but we are always enriched. Through this exposure we learn both the commonality and the uniqueness of our own thoughts -- that we are individuals, but not alone.”
Maryanne Wolf
“When we pass over into how a knight thinks, how a heroine behaves, and how an evildoer can regret or deny wrongdoing, we never come back quite the same; sometimes we're inspired, sometimes saddened, but we are always enriched. Through this exposure we learn both the commonality and the uniqueness of our own thoughts -- that we are individuals, but not alone.”
Maryanne Wolf, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain
“Reading changes our lives, and our lives change our reading.”
Maryanne Wolf, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain
“There are few more powerful mirrors of the human brain's astonishing ability to rearrange itself to learn a new intellectual function than the act of reading. Underlying the brain's ability to learn reading lies its protean capacity to make new connections among structures and circuits originally devoted to other more basic brain processes that have enjoyed a longer existence in human evolution, such as vision and spoken language. [...] we come into the world programmed with the capacity to change what is given to us by nature, so that we can go beyond it. We are, it would seem from the start, genetically poised for breakthroughs.”
Maryanne Wolf, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain
“Learning to read begins the first time an infant is held and read a story. How often this happens, or fails to happen, in the first five years of childhood turns out to be one of the best predictors of later reading.”
Maryanne Wolf, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain
“In childhood, he declared, the word-rich get richer and the word-poor get poorer, a phenomenon he called the “Matthew Effect”41 after a passage in the New Testament. There is also a Matthew-Emerson Effect for background knowledge: those who have read widely and well will have many resources to apply to what they read; those who do not will have less to bring, which, in turn, gives them less basis for inference, deduction, and analogical thought and makes them ripe for falling prey to unadjudicated information, whether fake news or complete fabrications. Our young will not know what they do not know. Others, too. Without sufficient background”
Maryanne Wolf, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World
“Before two years of age, human interaction and physical interaction with books and print are the best entry into the world of oral and written language and internalized knowledge, the building blocks of the later reading circuit.”
Maryanne Wolf, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World
“I still bought many books, but more and more I read in them, rather than being whisked away by them. At some time impossible to pinpoint, I had begun to read more to be informed than to be immersed, much less to be transported.”
Maryanne Wolf, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World
“WE WERE NEVER BORN TO READ. HUMAN BEINGS invented reading only a few thousand years ago. And with this invention, we rearranged the very organization of our brain, which in turn expanded the ways we were able to think, which altered the intellectual evolution of our species.”
Maryanne Wolf, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain
“There is a very simple, very beautiful Native American story I have always remembered. In this story a grandfather is telling his young grandson about life. He tells the little boy that in every person there are two wolves, who live in one's breast and who are always at war with each other. The first wolf is very aggressive and full of violence and hate toward the world. The second wolf is peaceful and full of light and love. The little boy anxiously asks his grandfather which wolf wins. The grandfather replies, "The one you feed.”
Maryanne Wolf, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World
“The end of reading development doesn’t exist; the unending story of reading moves ever forward, leaving the eye, the tongue, the word, the author for a new place from which the “truth breaks forth, fresh and green,” changing the brain and the reader every time.”
Maryanne Wolf, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain
“Deep reading is always about *connection*: connecting what we know to what we read, what we read to what we feel, what we feel to what we think, and how we think to how we live out our lives in a connected world.”
Maryanne Wolf, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World
“That is what I want our young nascent readers to become: expert, flexible code switchers -- between print and digital mediums now and later between and among the multiple future communication mediums....I conceptualize the initial development of learning to think in each medium as largely separated into distinct domains in the first school years, until a point in time when the particular characteristics of the two mediums are each well developed and internalized.

That is an essential point. I want the child to have parallel levels of fluency, if you will, in each medium, just as if he or she were similarly fluent in speaking Spanish and English. In this way the uniqueness of the cognitive processes honed by each medium would be there from the start.”
Maryanne Wolf, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World
“The central issue is not their intelligence, nor, more than likely, even their lack of familiarity with different styles of writing. Rather, it may come back to a lack of cognitive patience with demanding critical analytic thinking and a concomitant failure to acquire the cognitive persistence, what the psychologist Angela Duckworth famously called “grit,”54 nurtured by the very genres being avoided. Just as earlier I described how a lack of background knowledge and critical analytical skills can render any reader susceptible to unadjudicated or even false information, the insufficient formation and lack of use of these complex intellectual skills can render our young people less able to read and write well and therefore less prepared for their own futures.”
Maryanne Wolf, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World
“The first is that students have become increasingly less patient with the time it takes to understand the syntactically demanding sentence structures in denser texts and increasingly averse to the effort needed to go deeper into their analysis. The second is that student writing is deteriorating. I have, to be sure, heard this criticism of undergraduates as long as I have been teaching. The question is nevertheless important for every age to confront. In our epoch, we must ask whether current students’ diminishing familiarity with conceptually demanding prose and the daily truncating of their writing on social media is affecting their writing in more negative ways than in the past.”
Maryanne Wolf, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World
“In “Internet of Stings,” Jennifer Howard began one of the more disconcerting essays about some of these issues that came up in interviews with one of the purveyors of false news: As one master of the fake-news genre told the Washington Post55: “Honestly, people are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore.” Separating truth from fiction takes time, information literacy, and an open mind, all of which seem in short supply in a distracted, polarized culture. We love to share instantly—and that makes us easy to manipulate. There are many tough issues here for students, teachers, parents, and the members of our republic. How our citizens think, decide, and vote depends on their collective ability to navigate the complex realities of a digital milieu with intellects not just capable of, but accustomed to higher-level understanding and analysis. It is no longer only a matter of which medium is better for what; it is a question of how the optimal mode of thought in our children and our young adults and ourselves can be fostered in this moment of history. These are hardly new thoughts either for”
Maryanne Wolf, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World
“Do you, my reader, read with less attention and perhaps even less memory for what you have read? Do you notice when reading on a screen that you are increasingly reading for key words and skimming over the rest? Has this habit or style of screen reading bled over to your reading of hard copy? Do you find yourself reading the same passage over and over to understand its meaning? Do you suspect when you write that your ability to express the crux of your thoughts is subtly slipping or diminished? Have you become so inured to quick précis of information that you no longer feel the need or possess the time for your own analyses of this information? Do you find yourself gradually avoiding denser, more complex analyses, even those that are readily available? Very important, are you less able to find the same enveloping pleasure you once derived from your former reading self? Have you, in fact, begun to suspect that you no longer have the cerebral patience to plow through a long and demanding article or book? What if, one day, you pause and wonder if you yourself are truly changing and, worst of all, do not have the time to do a thing about it?”
Maryanne Wolf, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World
“There are many things that would be lost if we slowly lose the cognitive patience to immerse ourselves in the worlds created by books and the lives and feelings of the “friends” who inhabit them.”
Maryanne Wolf, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World
“The psychologist Howard Gardner used the MIT scholar Seymour Papert’s famous description of the child’s “grasshopper mind”6 to describe the spasmodic way our digital young now typically “hop from point to point, distracted from the original task.”
Maryanne Wolf, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World
“...before most of us possess an inkling that babies could be listening to us, infants are making astonishing connections between listening to human voices and developing their language system.

Think how much more can happen in those regions when parents slowly, deliberately read to their children, *just to them*, with mutually focused attention. This disarmingly simple act makes huge contributions: it provides not only the most palpable associations with reading, but also a time when parent and child are together in a timeless interaction that involves shared attention; learning about words, sentences, and concepts; and even learning what a book is. One of the most salient influences on young children's attention involves the shared gaze that occurs and develops while parents read to them. With little conscious effort children learn to focus their visual attention on what their parent or caretaker is looking at without losing an ounce of their own curiosity and exploratory behaviors. As the philosopher Charles Taylor notes, "The crucial condition for human language learning is *joint* attention," which he and others who are involved in studying the ontogenesis of language consider one of the most important features of human evolution.”
Maryanne Wolf, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World
“There are no genes or areas in the brain devoted uniquely to reading. Rather, our ability to read represents our brain's protean capacity to learn something outside our repertoire by creating new circuits that connect existing circuits in a different way.”
Maryanne Wolf
“Increasing numbers of developmental researchers observe that when parents read stories on e-books with their children, their interactions frequently center on the more mechanical and more gamelike aspects of e-books, rather than the content and the words and ideas in the stories. Most parents are simply better at fostering language and helping to clarify concepts when they read physical books to their preschool children.”
Maryanne Wolf, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World
“Then man would have denied and thrown away his own special nature—that he is a meditative being. Therefore, the issue is the saving of man’s essential nature—the keeping of the meditative thinking alive.” There is no shortage of contemporary observers of our digital culture who worry like Heidegger that the meditative dimension in human beings is threatened—by an overwhelming emphasis on materialism and consumerism, by a fractured relationship with time. As Teddy Wayne wrote in the New York Times: “Digital media trains us to be high-bandwidth8 consumers rather than meditative thinkers. We download or stream a song, article, book or movie instantly, get through it (if we’re not waylaid by the infinite inventory also offered) and advance to the next immaterial thing.” Or as Steve Wasserman asked in Truthdig, “Does the ethos of acceleration prized by the Internet diminish our capacity for deliberation and enfeeble our capacity for genuine reflection? Does the daily avalanche of information banish the space needed for actual wisdom? . . . Readers know . . . in their bones9 something we forget at our peril: that without books—indeed”
Maryanne Wolf, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World
“Whether we are able to attend to our capacity for reflection in this epoch is a matter of personal choice, with critical implications for us as both individuals and citizens. John Dunne saw the loss of this dimension as related to the rise of violence and conflict. I regard its gradual loss more as an outcome of our milieu’s unforeseen sequelae—the constant need for efficiency: “buying time” without knowing for what purpose; decreasing attention spans, pushed beyond their cognitive limits by a flotsam of distractions and information that will never become knowledge; and the increasingly manipulated and superficial uses of knowledge that will never become wisdom. In the first half of the twentieth century,”
Maryanne Wolf, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World
“Put in more sobering terms, only one-third of twenty-first-century American children now read with sufficient understanding and speed at the exact age when their future learning depends on it. The fourth grade represents a Maginot Line between learning to read and learning to use reading to think and learn. More disturbing altogether, close to half”
Maryanne Wolf, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World
“Biologically and intellectually, reading allows the species to go “beyond the information given” to create endless thoughts most beautiful and wonderful.”
Maryanne Wolf, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain
“Within this millisecond of recollection, we begin to appreciate the multilayered beauty in the brain’s design for storing and retrieving words: each word can elicit an entire history of myriad connections, associations, and long-stored emotions. Indeed, you have just witnessed how the reading brain activates in half a second something akin to the daily efforts of poets and writers to find the perfect word, the mot juste,26 that will connect, as E. M. Forster once described it, “prose with passion.” Let us finish our tour of the reading brain”
Maryanne Wolf, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World
“It is this heightened state that may produce several relatively new phenomena in childhood today. As the clinical psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair,10 the author of The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, observes, the most commonly heard complaint when children are asked to go off-line is “I’m bored.” Confronted with the dazzling possibilities for their attention on a nearby screen, young children quickly become awash with, then accustomed to, and ever so gradually semi-addicted to continuous sensory stimulation. When the constant level of stimulation is taken away, the children respond predictably with a seemingly overwhelming state of boredom. “I’m Bored.” There are different kinds of boredom. There is a natural boredom that is part of the woof of childhood that can often provide children with the impetus to create their own forms of entertainment and just plain fun. This is the boredom that Walter Benjamin described years ago as the “dream bird that hatches the egg of experience.”11 But there may also be an unnatural, culturally induced, new form of boredom that follows too much digital stimulation. This form of boredom may de-animate children in such a fashion as to prevent them from wanting to explore and create real-world experiences for themselves, particularly outside their rooms, houses, and schools. As Steiner-Adair wrote, “If they become addicted to playing on screens,12 children will not know how to move through that fugue state they call boredom, which is often a necessary prelude to creativity.” It would be an intellectual shame to think that in the spirit of giving our children as much as we can through the many creative offerings of the latest, enhanced e-books and technological innovations, we may inadvertently deprive them of the motivation and time necessary to build their own images of what is read and to construct their own imaginative off-line worlds that are the invisible habitats of childhood. Such cautions are neither a matter of nostalgic lament nor an exclusion of the powerful, exciting uses of the child’s imagination fostered by technology. We will return to such uses a little later. Nor should worries over a “lost childhood” be dismissed as a cultural (read Western) luxury. What of the real lost childhoods? one might ask, in which the daily struggle to survive trumps everything else? Those children are never far from my thoughts or my work every day of my life.”
Maryanne Wolf, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World
“There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those . . . we spent with a favorite book. Everything that filled them for others, so it seemed, and that we dismissed as a vulgar obstacle to a divine pleasure: the game for which a friend would come to fetch us at the most interesting passage; the troublesome bee or sun ray that forced us to lift our eyes from the page or to change position; the provisions for the afternoon snack that we had been made to take along and that we left beside us on the bench without touching, while above our head the sun was diminishing in force in the blue sky; the dinner we had to return home for, and during which we thought only of going up immediately afterward to finish the interrupted chapter, all those things with which reading should have kept us from feeling anything but annoyance, on the contrary they have engraved in us so sweet a memory (so much more precious to our present judgment than what we read then with such love), that if we still happen today to leaf through those books of another time, it is for no other reason than that they are the only calendars we have kept of days that have vanished, and we hope to see reflected on their pages the dwellings and the ponds which no longer exist.”
Maryanne Wolf, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain
“There is neither the time nor the impetus for the nurturing of a quiet eye, much less the memory of its harvests. Behind our screens, at work and at home, we have sutured the temporal segments of our days so as to switch our attention from one task or one source of stimulation to another. We cannot but be changed. And we are—”
Maryanne Wolf, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World

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