Sunday, March 18, 2012

Two articles from today's Sunday New York Times

There are two articles in The Sunday New York Times that I think are worth commenting on today. They are “The Way We Read Now,” and “Your Brain on Fiction.” The first article is a somewhat amusing reflection on electronic reading devices, and refers to the pros and cons of their use. I’ve been saying all along that homework problems are due to under the radar learning problems, particularly those related to working memory and processing speed. My own experience since getting  a Kindle, as someone who has always been a slow reader, is that the device has actually improved the pace at which I read. I don’t know that it’s fair to generalize from a single case example, me, but it causes me to wonder whether technology may someday prove a vital tool in helping children who are slow readers. The second article is more serious, and discusses language, the associations we have to specific words, and how the words stimulate the brain in ways that are comparable to what those particular words mean.  This discussion is quite consistent with what I say in my chapter on Behavioral Factors in The Homework Trap. There, I use the terminology of classical conditioning to explain how, in the homework-trapped family, homework becomes the “H-word,” to the point that verbal reference to homework is counterproductive when trying to get the child to comply. The word is filled with negative associations and becomes the trigger for further resistance to getting the assignments done.

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