12) Reading and Writing

Curriculum specialists years ago, recognized the value of a liberal arts education because courses outside the area of concentration, your major, would make you 'well-rounded' and value scholarship as you became aware of the broad academic world of content areas. O'Sullivan carries that further by showing that more complicated reading forces the brain to work in varied regions to ponder multiple ideas and formulate meaning that is subsequently processed as memory for future interpretation. She and Berns are saying that focused reading gives meaning to characters and words resulting in a greater awareness of the human condition, the latitude of emotions and values, and consequently makes us more empathetic creatures. The idea is that the college graduate has sufficient opportunities to nurture those cognitive processes as they examine complex texts, becoming not only proficient in their area of concentration, but higher levels of social reasoning and better human beings.

For one, learning cursive integrates regions of the brain associated with sensation, controlled movement, and thinking. The child uses fine motor skills as the fingers grasp and manipulate the implement, an extension of the thinking process as ideas are formulated, and then decides how it will be recorded on paper. Karin James, professor of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University, had preliterate, five-year old children print, type, and trace letters and shapes, and scanned with fMRI when they were later shown images of the items. Though their clumsy replications were what you would expect of first trials, the writing circuit in both hemispheres of their brains was significantly activated when the children performed handwriting and not typing or tracing. It was the same "reading network" observed when adults write, particularly the fusiform gyrus and posterior parietal regions of the brain

Berns GS, Blaine K, Preitula MJ, and Pye B., (2016). Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain. Brain Connectivity.

O'Sullivan, N., Davis, P., Billington, J., Gonzalez-Diaz, V., Corcoran, R., (December 2015) “Shall I compare thee”: The neural basis of literary awareness, and its benefits to cognition, Cortex, Volume 73, 144–157.

James, K.H. and Engelhardt, L. (2013).  The effects of handwriting experience on functional brain development in pre-literate children. Trends in Neuroscience and Education.

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