During July of 2010 I was talking with Tina, she and her husband Rich have rented Anna’s Place for over 15 year, and I asked her for the title of good book I should read. She suggested Brain Rules by John Medina . I need to tell you that Tina is a practicing psychologist in the Denver area. She suggested that title because it was not too technical and she thought I might find it interesting and informative. That same day I ordered the book through Amazon.com and received it about a week later.
I read the book that summer and I did find it interesting. As I read it I marked the more import parts to me with small scraps of paper. When I left Grand Lake on October 1st to move back to McCook for the winter I left the book behind.
Now it’s July 2011, and like the summer before, Tina and Rich were staying in Anna’s Place. Again I ask her for the title of a book I should read. This time it was The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge M. D.. I found the material fascinating and finished it before leaving for the winter, but unlike the previous year, I took this book home with me.
In April 2013 I purchased the book Super Brain by Chopra and Tanzi and started reading. I found it a wonderful informative book and recommended the title to those who would listen to me. Eventually I suggested to my close friend Linda that we should find a hand full of interested readers and when I returned from Grand Lake in October start a book discussion group. A couple of weeks prior to Thanksgiving the eight of us started meeting each Thursday noon for lunch and to discuss what we had read.
Now I need to step back to last summer in Grand Lake. When I arrived at the cottage I had all three books there with me. Several times each week Mia, my springer spaniel, and I would drive to the village and I would take one of the three books with me. We would locate an outdoor table and chair at one of the local coffee shops and spend and hour or more reading while Mia tried to panhandle food from other folks enjoying the crisp clear mountain morning air. Eventually, by the end of my four months there, I reread each book at least once more.
This time I had a mission. I wanted a better understand of brain plasticity or neuroplasticity and how it related to the older generation, particularly the baby boomers, the group to which I now finally identify. I found myself switching back and fourth between the three books looking for similar ideas. And I found them. They really are all talking about how the brain works and what research has been done in the field. Super Brain and Brain Rules are more into the personal application of the material.
They are all very informative, well written books but my favorite became The Brain That Changes Itself. It’s the largest of the three but probably not for everyone reading list.
One of the things which marveled me was that I had marked up all three books as I read them the first time, and when I read them a second and third time I was underlining even more words and sentences. Obviously I was learning more from them with each subsequent reading. Before, what I found interesting I now thought profound.
Last summer I really enjoyed sipping coffee and reading so when I returned to McCook I need to find a location where I could do the same. Being a member of the boomer generation I need lots of good light by which to read. I decided the best light at any of the restaurant in town was the newly remodeled Golden Arches or MacDonald’s. I also need to mention I’m an early riser so I’m usually at the YMCA each week day morning by 04 dark 30 and at the Golden Arches by 0600 hours.
I take with me my books, IPad, ear buds and coffee creamer. I order a large senior coffee for 96 cents and settle in to checking my email and searching through one of the three books while listening to Allison Adams Tucker or Kevin Kern through Pandora Radio. Now when I find I want to learn more about something in which ever book I’m reading, I look it up on the Internet at that time. The hour or so I spend there seems to fly by and eventfully I need to head home with Mia so I can feed and walk her.
I want to mention that across the street from me lives a single mother with her four children. Nick, her oldest, is eight and in third grade. Nick and I have become friends and we have walked Mia around the block many times over the years. Eventually he learned how to ride a bike so his trips around the block became much shorter than mine. During the winter we even helped each other shovel our walks.
When I returned to McCook this past October I decided that his mother could use a little help so I offered to keep Nick two afternoons after school so she only had three children to contend with for a few hours. I also offered to help Nick with his home work during our time together. On Nick’s first afternoon with me he brought his home work along with math flash cards.
Our routine settled in and each day we would do a little homework, reading and bake cookies or use an easy to make cake mix. We would practice reading the directions. He would measure out the ingredients, set the over temperature and timer. Mia got to lick the mixing bowl clean. I quickly learned that Nick was in the special education classes at school, he read at an early 1st grade level and his math was not much better. He also did not understand what he was reading if he did get most of the words correct in a sentence. I noticed that he tended to talk in short sentences and to leave out words. He would say “I go home.” In place of “I want to go home.” He also struggled with remembering how to pronounce many words. He would struggle through trying to pronounce it out then just guess at a word it might be. Never the correct one.
One morning, while reading The Brain That Changes Itself, Doidge wrote that children with learning disabilities can leave out the central words of a sentence. Immediately I thought of Nick and his learning problems. Up until that time I did not realize that his problems might be due to LDs. There were areas in his cerebral cortex under developed, possibly since birth. It was at that point that I seriously started to learn about brain plasticity and learning disabilities in children. I began spending more time each day searching through The Brain That Changes Itself for anything that might help me work with Nick.