Dr. Maryanne Wolf Talks Literacy in the Digital Age :Transformations in the Reading Brain

Apr 30, 2018

Literacy in the Digital Age: Transformations of the Reading Brain was a topic recently at Eastern Kentucky University’s Chautauqua Lecture Series.

Dr Maryanne Wolf, The John DiBiaggio  Professor of citizenship and public service and the Director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University in Boston talked with WEKU’s Cheri Lawson.

Dr Maryanne Wolf is a cognitive neuroscientist. She’s most interested in research on the human brain . Dr Wolf says we were never meant to read, we have to learn it,

Wolf: “It’s not natural, the brain quite literally has to make an entirely new circuit for this cognitive new function. You and I come to this world with a genetic program for language ,for vision, for thinking ,smelling ,eating etc, But nothing like that exists for reading . We invented reading.”

CL: What’s your biggest concern for our brains, for our children’s brains in this digital age? Because let’s face it. Here we are.

MW: “I have always characterized myself as a reading warrior but now I’m characterizing  myself as a reading worrier. It is one thing for adult brains that are fully formed and know how to concentrate know what I call the deep reading skills, like being able to take on the perspective of “other” and use information in such a way that they can be critically analytic. Our children have not formed those deep reading skills and so I worry that they will never have gained the kind of fluent reading that’s necessary to actually slow reading down and think very carefully, very analytically, very insightfully about what they’re reading. So it is the atrophy or even the failure to develop deep reading processes in our young, that is my greatest worry. Empathy, critical analysis, reflection are the three characteristics of deep reading that  I believe are  most threatened if children do nothing but screen reading.”

Literacy in the Digital Age ,Transformations in the reading Brain was Dr. Maryanne Wolf’s topic at her talk for Eastern Kentucky University’s Chatauqua Lecture Series, March 1.

CL: Dr Wolf says the reading brain is one of our proudest achievements as a species and  that reading brain is changing under our fingertips.

MW: “It’s very plasticity leads it to be vulnerable to changes both good and ill. And technology is changing our reading brain circuit in ways that are both good and potentially very destructive of some of what I will call as deep reading processes.And  because we live in this moment of time, the very technology I am worried about can help us redress its own weaknesses so that we do not lose the  critical,analytic and empathic powers that reading in print has led us to.”