Proust and the Squid: Science and the Reading Brain

"We can receive the truth from nobody: we must create it ourselves." - Marcel Proust

"Human beings were never born to read," writes Tufts University cognitive neuroscientist and child development expert Maryanne Wolf in Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain.

Reading is a human invention that reflects how the brain rearranges itself to learn something new.

Wolf chronicles how the reading brain emerged. I would have assumed that it started about 5000 years ago when writing began. Wolf looks at that, but also over the course of a single child's life, and talks about the process and why children with dyslexia have reading difficulties and singular gifts.

This was a book recommendation a few years ago from a purely online friend, Bruce Schauble. I finally got to read the book, but here was Bruce's original review that piqued my interest.
"I've spent the last four days reading one of the best books about education that I've ever gotten my hands around. It goes by the unlikely name of Proust and the Squid, and the subtitle is "The Story and Science of the Reading Brain." Maryanne Wolf, the author is a cognitive scientist, an educator, a parent, and a formidably talented reader and writer. In this book, she manages to convey in a comprehensive and comprehensible way the status of our current understanding of reading as a process from pretty much every relevant point of view: historical, psychological, physiological, sociological, and educational..."

read Bruce's full review at

The book has lots of examples to support her theories. One example theory: the brain that examined the tiny clay tablets of the Sumerians was a very different brain from the one that is immersed in today's technology-driven literacy, because the transformations in this changed reading brain have profound implications for every child.

It is not an easy book. After all, she is a professor in the department of Child Study and Human Development at Tufts University and an academic. But you can handle it.

By the way, the odd title refers to the different but complementary ways of understanding the reading process - but you'll have to read it to understand why.

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