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The Reading Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Understanding How the Mind Reads

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  281 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Stop for a moment and wonder: what's happening in your brain right now—as you read this paragraph? How much do you know about the innumerable and amazing connections that your mind is making as you, in a flash, make sense of this request? Why does it matter?

The Reading Mind is a brilliant, beautifully crafted, and accessible exploration of arguably life's most important sk
Hardcover, 233 pages
Published May 1st 2017 by Jossey-Bass (first published April 2017)
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Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As an obsessive reader, and a reading mentor, I was really interested to read, “The Reading Mind.” Author Daniel T. Willingham looks at how we read. As he says, learning to read is a complex process and so he takes the process in steps – from letters, to words, sentences, comprehension, becoming a reader and reading after the digital revolution. Along the way, he explains the mental processes and also outlines actions which help to promote reading.

This is a very interesting book to read for any
Eric Kalenze
Another Willingham, another five stars. Required reading for teachers of reading and parents.

Though Willingham kicks off the book by saying its foremost purpose is not to be about how people learn to read (but, rather, to describe the processes behind how experienced readers read), there's more important content here for teachers than can be found in most teacher-training programs, NCTE publications, or district-level professional departments. Endure those as you have to, then read this--and ot
Zac Chase
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am eager to recommend books, but I have never labeled any as a must read. If any part of your life is dependent on helping children access and understand information through reading, then this is a must-read for you.

Not only do I anticipate this book has helped me better understand the workings of the mind during reading, I imagine it will have helped me elevate my conversation and decisions related to that matter as well.

Mr Shahabi
Dec 19, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is not about how You should read, but rather how the mind Works when your reading, in a fast reader's Scenario And an average reader scenario, I liked the science involved in the book, but this is not a HOW TO book for folks who wants to know more about speed reading.

Drink Tea, Green
The miscellaneous reader
Sep 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was searching for a book that could provide me with a condensed and thorough account of the reading process. It goes trough many things: how our minds construct letters, sound based meaning of words, our transition into a orthographic representation of words and so much more.

The author does a good job ensuring that the reader has a clear thread to follow throughout the book. The books also backs up its claims with research albeit somewhat outdated.

Although some concepts and ideas were somewh
May 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education
One of the best general introductions to reading I've come across. Finished it at rapid pace and was not confused or overwhelmed by any of the content. Willingham knows exactly when to turn down the academic language and when to paraphrase scientific content rather than quote. He has an entertaining and easy to follow style. As a general overview of how our brain accesses and interprets the written word this is one of the best. ...more
Nov 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a sort of training manual for teachers, more than a mass-market page-turner, but it's very good for what it is, explaining clearly some counterintuitive or unpopular findings about how we read, with implications for how we learn to read. I would have liked more on precursors to reading in very young children. ...more
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: work
Excellent!! Very readable and informative. I heard him speak yesterday- excellent speaker!! Bonus- I left with 6 excellent suggestions for parents to turn their kids onto reading.
Elisabeth Marksteiner
Jan 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was my Christmas present to me. HOW do we read? The structure and clarity of this was marvellous. Having read this once, I need to read again. The diagrams really help explain the mental processes. Fascinating that it is at 4th grade level there seems to be a switch as decoding becomes more complex and reading requires more general comprehension of the world. Every educator should read this.
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I found this book fascinating. Probably most of use to those in education, especially those responsible for the teaching of reading, but I think this would appeal to anyone who loves reading and is interested in knowing why and how their passion came to be. A psychologist perspective but very accessible to a layperson. Well worth a read. I loved it.
Jun 19, 2017 marked it as to-read
You Still Need Your Brain, NYT Sunday Review. The bionote of the column’s author tipped me to this book: ...more
Jon Margetts
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In The Reading Mind, Willingham masterfully and engagingly deconstructs the seemingly simple yet unbelievably complex task of reading into manageable and understandable processes. In doing so, he enriches the understanding of why some read and some do not.

As a teacher of English, practicable insights included the influential role of background knowledge in comprehending writing, the importance of explicitly teaching vocabulary (and how the mind constructs a 'web' of context-dependant meaning, n
Erika RS
Mar 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, owned
This book contains an overview of cognitive models of the different tasks involved in reading. The strength of this book is its clarity. Each chapter is focused and well structured to make it easy to understand the key points. Each chapter opens with an agenda for that chapter and ends with a summary and implications. The separation of the summary and implications highlights another strength of the books: Willingham's careful separation of what we know from research and ways that can be applied, ...more
Petter Nordal
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a nicely rounded, global perspective on the cognitive processes involved in reading, all of it fully based in scientific research. Like all of Willingham's writing, it is easy to follow, entertaining and useful.

As a teacher, four things stood out to me.

One: the orthographic principle in visual text translation continues to be as important as the phonetic translation throughout the life of a reader. This is great news for bilingual teachers who have cognates to teach when we are teaching
Jul 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read Daniel Willingham's opinion piece in the New York Times earlier this year. That same day, my mother emailed me the article to read. I emailed her back telling her that I had read it and also purchased the author's book.

As a fourth grade teacher in an urban environment, this was the perfect summer professional development book. I came to education via an alternate route and so most of my understanding of the process of reading came through on-the-ground observation. This book confirmed so
Kelli Bonin
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
FASCINATING. I loved every bit of it. I did not enjoy textbooks in high school or college, but now that I’m an adult with a wider background knowledge (as Daniel Willingham explains in the book) I am completely fascinated by them. This book is very much like a textbook and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

A passage I found particularly interesting:
“The breadth of the network, and the particular connections in it are a product of an individual’s experiences... Someone who grows up in circumstances with l
Mark Feltskog
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If it is true, as Jerome L. Rekart asserts at the end (p. 13) of the first chapter of his book, The Cognitive Classroom (New York: Roman & Littlefield, 2013) that "Educators are applied cognitive scientists," then I can think of no better place to seek theory to apply in practice than the books of Daniel Willingham.

This one is no exception: it is concise, highly readable, and contains a plethora of useful information for the instructor at any level. Dr. Willingham has a way of summarizing resear
Ryan Patrick
Jan 21, 2018 rated it liked it
It was definitely interesting to walk through the process of reading -- there's a lot more going on in the process than most of us are aware of. It was also interesting to see some of the implications of the various scientific studies on reading. That said, this book doesn't go very far in applicability, other than to say that if we want to raise readers, we have to get kids reading, which seems a little obvious. It was worth reading, but it is a thin book that could be thicker. ...more
Heather Jones
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education
EXCELLENT. Willingham explores the mental processes that make up the act of reading in a way that's thoroughly grounded in research, and still readable for almost anyone. I ENTHUSIASTICALLY recommend this book to English teachers, parents, and anyone who's interested in what happens in our heads when we read. ...more
Insightful nuggets

As a parent with a preschooler, it's an essential read as it gives insights into how to help your child to enjoy and value reading. As an educator, it's a reminder of the key knowledge and skills that students will need in order to be successful at fluency and comprehension.
Jan 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: education
The most interesting element for me was the section on ‘reading self-concept’ and the motivation to read. Worth investigating. There were about five other really good points in this work that will be useful for Stage 4.
John Kissell
Sep 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent explanation of how we read; I read it for a class. The most surprising aspect of reading is how much attitude (toward reading as an activity AND our self-concept as a reader) is a factor in continued reading.
Michael Wolcott
Sep 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
A brief review of how the mind reads, which was insightful and curious. I was completely unaware of how the process works and it made me so much more appreciative of how we read. An interesting little book that is practical for parents and educators.
I drank too much iced tea and harnessed that weird energy into finishing the last two chapters of this book which I was assigned for a class and I still can't explain why I chose to do this on a cozy Sunday night. ...more
Nikki Baker
Dec 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’m a huge Daniel Willingham fan! This book is less technical than some other books about what happens in the brain as one reads, so this I great introduction to this topic. The section on beliefs related identity and why we are slow to change beliefs was particularly interesting.
Nov 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Willingham does an excellent job translating the latest neuroscience so anyone can understand. What a fascinating, easy-to-read look at the reading process. It's a miracle anyone can read. I highly recommend to anyone interested! ...more
Jenifer Dugdale
Feb 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
HIGHLY recommended for anyone teaching reading. Or just anyone who's curious how the human brain learns to read. Fascinating and accessible. And Willingham uses the phrase "home in" correctly, which makes me want to hug him. ...more
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
No but really? How does reading actually work? This book gives the best overview I’ve ever seen, with lots of talking points and advice for educators. Every teacher could benefit from it!
Kimberly Wiggins
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Took me a while! But Zac I wrote in it so much I just bought you a new one. I really enjoyed it!
Andrew Jones
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating read. Willingham may be my new favorite author (in terms of cognitive science that is!). I look forward to reading the companion work he wrote about applying his theory to children.
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Daniel Willingham earned his B.A. from Duke University in 1983 and his Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from Harvard University in 1990. He is currently Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, where he has taught since 1992. Until about 2000, his research focused solely on the brain basis of learning and memory. Today, all of his research concerns the application of cognitive psycholog ...more

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