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Reading in the Brain: The New Science of How We Read [Kindle Edition]

Stanislas Dehaene
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.00
Kindle Price: $11.84
You Save: $5.16 (30%)
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC


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Book Description

"Brings together the cognitive, the cultural, and the neurological in an elegant, compelling narrative. A revelatory work."
-Oliver Sacks, M.D.

The act of reading is so easily taken for granted that we forget what an astounding feat it is. How can a few black marks on white paper evoke an entire universe of meanings? It's even more amazing when we consider that we read using a primate brain that evolved to serve an entirely different purpose. In this riveting investigation, Stanislas Dehaene explores every aspect of this human invention, from its origins to its neural underpinnings. A world authority on the subject, Dehaene reveals the hidden logic of spelling, describes pioneering research on hiw we process languages, and takes us into a new appreciation of the brain and its wondrous capacity to adapt.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The transparent and automatic feat of reading comprehension disguises an intricate biological effort, ably analyzed in this fascinating study. Drawing on scads of brain-imaging studies, case histories of stroke victims and ingenious cognitive psychology experiments, cognitive neuroscientist Dehaene (The Number Sense) diagrams the neural machinery that translates marks on paper into language, sound and meaning. It's a complex and surprising circuitry, both specific, in that it is housed in parts of the cortex that perform specific processing tasks, and puzzlingly abstract. (The brain, Dehaene hypothesizes, registers words mainly as collections of pairs of letters.) The author proposes reading as an example of neuronal recycling—the recruitment of previously evolved neural circuits to accomplish cultural innovations—and uses this idea to explore how ancient scribes shaped writing systems around the brain's potential and limitations. (He likewise attacks modern whole language reading pedagogy as an unnatural imposition on a brain attuned to learning by phonics.) This lively, lucid treatise proves once again that Dehaene is one of our most gifted expositors of science; he makes the workings of the mind less mysterious, but no less miraculous. Illus. (Nov. 16)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

STANISLAS DEHAENE is the director of the Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit in Saclay, France, and the professor of experimental cognitive psychology at the Coll���ge de France. He is the author of Reading in the Brain.

Product Details

  • File Size: 4626 KB
  • Print Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (November 12, 2009)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002SR2Q2I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #284,900 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
86 of 88 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. December 9, 2009
An astonishing work, explaining convincingly how mankind acquired (only in the last 5,000 years) a skill we all take for granted: reading. The brief explanation, as I (a non-scientist) understand it? Reading takes quite a lot of brain computer firepower (because of the multiple processing required), such that our eventually huge frontal lobes were necessary. The portions of our brain used initially for visual recognition lead to the wiring of our brains to recognize certain key shapes, shapes that eventually become the key "strokes" used in writing (by all cultures) such that they are in effect structured into our brain's learning algorithm, creating specific neuronal circuits and structures, previously used as visual pathways. It's an amazing story, well told by one well placed to present the many brain science studies (many of which he conducted) which fully explicate the story. Also numerous "side-stories" worth hearing: e.g., re the origins of our alphabet, along with occasional hints of possible future evolution of the human brain. An A+ book.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Research and Enthralling Style! March 1, 2010
Although one of the main topics covered in this book is dyslexia and how it may be a culturally defined disorder as well as a neurological disorder, the book covers a wide range of data. Dehaene is very thorough, offering extensive fMRI maps of up to date research on modules of the brain pertaining to reading. The book may be hard to wade through for those of us unfamiliar with extensive neurological terminology, but Dehaene works hard to ensure that his readers understand the issues. A very worthwhile read for any linguist, cognitive scientist, or anyone simply interested in the evolution of reading in our ambitious pleistocene minds.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The brain is an amazing place March 18, 2010
Author Dehaene, who has some very impressive credentials, has made an exhaustive exploration of how the human brain reads. What he has concluded is that we `recycle' parts of the brain that were evolved to do other things. Humans have been evolving for several million years, but only reading for a few thousand- a new structure just for reading couldn't have been created in that time. And reading arose in several geographical areas around the same time- the chances of a special mutation for reading happening in all those places is pretty slim.

Hundreds of experiments, from EEGs, fMRIs, split brain surgeries, tests on people who have had strokes or other brain damage, have found how reading works. From how the eye functions, to the recognition of letters on paper, to turning them mentally into sound, and putting those sounds together into words, Dehaene has traced the path. He gives his opinions on what seem to be the best way to teach reading, but also calls for large experiments in teaching reading to resolve, once and for all, what is the best, most efficient way to teach all- not just average children but adult illiterates and people with dyslexia.

The book is very interesting, but it can be slow going. He gives the conditions and results of test after test, and tells us what the information gained tells us about reading. What the reader learns about their brain makes it worth sticking with the book.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New Science to Reading November 16, 2010
I found/find this book interesting from sentence one: "At this moment, your brain is accomplishing an amazing feat - reading" (p. 1). The book moves on to look at: theory, science, applications for educators and parents, and critical issues in the area of literacy. I am not sure I agree with all that is presented on Dyslexia, especially in reference to McGuinness (2005: see Language Development and Learning to Read: The Scientific Study of How Language Development Affects Reading Skill (Bradford Books)), suggesting quite the opposite - BUT - I do appreciate the literature as those of us interested in issues such as Dyslexia should have a balanced read.

I also like how Dehaene addresses the underpinnings of reading from a neurological perspective attempting to share what we know think we understand.

I do think this book is not replaceable by other books and deserves a solid spot on the shelf of any educator or academic interested in literacy - especially from a cognitive science perspective. It is easy to follow and can either be read or used as a reference book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
One of the last chapters opens with an epigraph from Umberto Eco "If God existed, he would be a library."

Which tickled my fancy, but doesn't necessarily portray Dehaene's stance about how inborn structural properties of our brain are co-opted and retrained (neuronal recycling)in order for humans to develop the ability to recognize words and understand them (no matter if Chinese or French.)

"Recycling, on the other hand, implies that before cortical regions convert to other uses, they already possess prior structural properties inherited from evolution. Each cortical region starts out with a portfolio of assets and liabilities that are only partially rearranged by learning."

Dehaene uses most of his book to describe in detail the work of various researchers in figuring out where certain processes in the brain reside. His development of a theory of the "letterbox", or a parallel series of processes/areas that get activated in order to recognize letters is fascinating stuff. However, for a laywoman like me (I'm from a language acquisition education background, but by no means a scientist)it was heavy duty reading.

I slogged through it nonetheless, and emerged with an interesting view on how evolution might have prepared our brain in two important ways: by helping us be expert recognizers of primary geometric shapes and b) giving us the ability to recognize mirror images of objects even if we've only seen a profile.

Again, it was heavy technical speak about different sections of the brain, but ultimately manageable. What makes this book most interesting to an educator like me are the last few chapters which talk about implications of Dehaene's research and theories on both first language acquisition and on dyslexia.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars I found the discussion of typical brain processing during reading ...
I found the discussion of typical brain processing during reading versus the the processes in a brain with dyslexia to be very helpful. Read more
Published 12 days ago by Susan C
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 21 days ago by PB
4.0 out of 5 stars How we came to read
I know that Mary Wolf uses this text in her course at Tufts because I bought it on the recommendation of one of her students. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Gandalf
3.0 out of 5 stars Research, research, research
I bought this book to increase my teaching strategies for reading instruction. The book was heavily laden with scientific research, hypothesis, and anatomical diagrams. Read more
Published 3 months ago by VW
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the effort
The writer unarguably knows what he is talking about. Discussions are clear and transparent to an ordinary reader. Read more
Published 4 months ago by H. Baki Iz
5.0 out of 5 stars well written and enlightening
i first came across dehaene's name in george lakoff's "where mathematics come from" -- and picked up his earlier number sense book. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Stanley Lippman
4.0 out of 5 stars The amazing process of reading
The book covers a wide range of topics from how reading and writing evolved, to how our brains process visual information and transform this into an understanding of writing. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Michelle Boytim
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting but be prepared that you won't be able to go through...
"Reading in the Brain" by Stanislas Dehaene is a good book that explains the seemingly simple thing how people read or rather how some tracks on paper (or screen) become something... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Denis Vukosav
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read.
Elegantly written and informative. What we know about the neurology of language today. A must read for SLP, linguistic, psychology, neurology, biology, even sociology majors and... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Jess Silva
5.0 out of 5 stars Reading in the Brain: nice!
"Reading in the Brain" is a nicely written book that offers a lot of insight in the different aspects of this sophisticated proces, the (biological) obstacles that may... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Mona
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