Once upon a time there was a girl. She was a sweet child, with bright blue eyes, a dimpled smile, and curly golden hair that tumbled over her shoulders. The most distinctive thing about her, however, was a red cloak that she wore everywhere she went. The village called her Little Red Riding Hood.
What is it that transforms a page full of words into a tale that entertains us, informs us, and ultimately leaves us changed? In her essay From Words to Brain, former MIT neuroscientist Livia Blackburne explores the brain basis of reading–a skill that is incredibly complex and integral to modern culture. Using the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood as a guide, Blackburne follows the story from its physical manifestation on the page, through the reader’s visual system, and ultimately into the reader’s imagination and beyond. Because the experience of reading a story does not end with the last page. That’s the point at which the real magic begins.
From Words to Brain is 6700 words long, or roughly 27 printed pages.