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Book Review: "Unicorns Are Real: A Right-Brained Approach To Learning"

"Unicorns Are Real: A Right-Brained Approach To Learning"
by Barbara Meister Vitale

Warner Books (c) 1994 ISBN 0446323403
Mass Market Paperback. $5.50US

Winch Associates/Jalmar Productions (c) 1982 ISBN 0915109354
Oversized Paperback. $12.95US

An interesting book about teaching children who appear to be right hemisphere dominant. Ms. Vitale's approaches use multi- sensory techniques similar to Maria Montessori's. The (c) 1982 edition of this book was used for this review. Ms. Vitale includes screening checklists for hemispheric dominance for use at school or home. Readers should be aware that this book presents an oversimplified view of brain function localization and hemispheric dominance which appears to be based upon research that has since been contradicted.

If your child has difficulties in school you might want to try some of the activities listed in this book. Color writing is a favorite in our household for learning to spell words. It seems to help the kids focus their attention. Another technique that we learned from this book is writing the letters in columns in order to memorize spelling words. Different, but it works for some individuals.

I wouldn't rely upon this book for accurate technical information but her learning activities are worthwhile and seem to be very useful for primary level children (grades K-6).

Book Review: "Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain"

"Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain" by Betty Edwards.
Jeremy P. Tarcher/Perigee Books; The Putnam Publishing Group.
ISBN 0874775132. $13.95US

A charming book combining lessons in how to draw with the author's understanding of how hemispheric dominance plays a part in thinking and perception. Ms. Edwards very carefully side-steps the controversy of brain function localization by stating:

"... most scientists agree that for a majority of individuals, information processing based primarily on linear, sequential data is mainly located in the left hemisphere, while global, perceptual data is mainly processed in the right hemisphere.

"... the precise location of these modes in the individual brain is not an important issue. What is important is that incoming information can be handled in two fundamentally different ways and that the two modes can apparently work together in a vast array of combinations."

Ms. Edwards lists five perceptual skills that she calls "the basic component skills" and she postulates that learning to use these perceptual skills via drawing will help anyone to develop their abilities to perceive and process information from their environment.

  1. the perception of edges
  2. the perception of spaces
  3. the perception of relationships
  4. the perception of lights and shadows
  5. the perception of the whole, or gestalt.

The drawing exercises are predicated on two beliefs that Ms. Edwards holds about the brain's hemispheric processing of information.

"In order to gain access to the subdominant visual, perceptual R-mode of the brain, it is necessary to present the brain with a job that the verbal, analytic L-Mode will turn down ...

"Conversely, in order to access the verbal, analytic L-mode it is necessary to present the brain with [an appropriate task] e.g. reading, writing, and arithmetic."

According to Ms. Edwards, using these strategies allows one to switch the processing of perceptual inputs from one hemisphere (and processing mode) to the other. While I haven't seen these corroborated elsewhere they are interesting and trying the exercises makes for a "fun" experiment with the kids. The mirror writing and upside down drawing exercises are favorites in our household.

Some parents may even find this book worth the purchase price solely for the author's suggestions regarding improving handwriting by using the techniques of drawing.

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Copyright 1997 by Valorie King, All Rights Reserved
Last updated July 28, 1997 counter

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