Since Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound is a picture book, some schools figure the older kids won’t be interested in what we can show them. But guess what? Older kids are as curious about what it’s like to be blind as the younger ones are. And hey, they like dogs, too!
And so, talking with the 4th, 5th and 6th graders during our visit to St. Mary of the Lake School last week was a treat. During the Q&A part of our presentation to the older kids, one boy asked, “Is it boring, not being able to see TV?”
After giving the question some consideration, I told him I guess I’ve gotten used to it, and no, it isn’t boring. Not at all. “It’s kind of like reading a chapter book all the time,” I said. “Without any pictures, I always have to imagine what the stuff in my story looks like.”
A New York Times story I read after visiting St. Mary’s reported that in addition to stimulating the “classical” language regions of our brain, reading fiction also activates a whole bunch of other parts:
Words like “lavender,” “cinnamon” and “soap,” for example, elicit a response not only from the language-processing areas of our brains, but also those devoted to dealing with smells.
The piece quoted similar research about the sense of touch – when people read descriptions involving texture, say, “hands like leather” or “hair like silk” the part of the brain responsible for perceiving texture through touch was activated. Another study explained that words describing motion activated the part of the brain that coordinates the body’s movements, but there was no mention of any study showing that vivid descriptions of visual images might activate the part of the brain that has, in my case, been dormant for so long. If it turns out that it does, I guess I have something new to worry about: my visual cortex might be over-stimulated!