Reading fluently leaves room for thinking ...

That's a claim made by neurobiologist Maryanne Wolf whose book "Proust and the Squid" is highlighted in a recent New Yorker essay by Caleb Crain on the consequences of the documented decline in literary reading among schoolchildren.

According to this article recent brain imaging studies show that when "a child first starts to read she has to use more of her brain than adults do. Broad regions light up in both hemispheres. ... At some point, as a child progresses from decoding to fluent reading, the route of signals through her brain shifts ... [and] reading starts to move along a faster and more efficient [route], which is confined to the left hemisphere."

Wolf writes, "the secret at the heart of reading [is] the time it frees for the brain to have thoughts deeper than those that came before."

Crain points out that if these studies are right, then recent claims that television and video games are giving us needed cognitive workouts that make our minds sharper might not be true. And even more interesting are the suggestions that fluent reading actually fosters abstract thinking more than television-like modes of communicating. There's research to show that more than a small amount of television viewing diminishes children's performance in reading, science, and math.

Once again I'm reminded that I'm involved in a large-scale, long-term, action research experiment on my own mental capacities as I sit in front of this computer for hours each day. I'm just a lab rat with a lab coat.

For a reader like me I really liked this quote from Proust about reading: "[To read is] to receive a communication with another way of thinking, all the while remaining alone, that is, while continuing to enjoy the intellectual power that one has in solitude and that conversation dissipates immediately."

I wonder how this relates to twittering? Is that conversation or reading? or both? What do you think?

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