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LESSON TWENTY SEVEN HERE!
In today’s lesson, entitled The Magical World of Reading, you will learn about all the positive effects reading has on your brain, imagination, and even character. Listen carefully to the passage and then answer the questions that follow. It’s always a good idea to take notes as you listen, but remember: don’t let your note-taking distract you from your listening.
The Magical World of Reading
Listen and Learn
Lesson Twenty-Seven PASSAGE ONLY track:
Feeling a bit unfit? No problem. Take a brisk walk or go for a nice long swim, and you’ll soon be back in tip-top shape. Want to look and be stronger? A few trips to the weight room should do the trick. But what if you’re feeling mentally sluggish? What if you’re having a hard time concentrating on your homework or finishing that 1,000-word essay that’s due tomorrow? Isn’t there something you can do to get your mind running on all cylinders again—an exercise that restarts that complex engine that is your brain? Indeed there is!
Pick up a book, a magazine, or even your Kindle, and have a good read.
More and more studies show that the very act of reading—whether it’s a classic such as Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations or something more easily digestible like a magazine article about the hottest new video games—has a powerful effect on your brain, giving you all kinds of cognitive benefits. From a neurobiological perspective, reading is a much more demanding mental exercise than watching a movie or listening to an audio book. Reading requires you to give all your brain’s “muscles”—your intelligence, powers of concentration, and memory—a good workout. Research using MRI scans has shown that while you read, the parts of your brain that have evolved for vital functions such as vision, language learning, and understanding the world around you all work together, simultaneously transmitting and receiving signals.
What you read comes into play, too. Reading non-fiction books or articles actually increases your brain’s learning capacity, while reading works of fiction enhances your imagination. And reading certain types of books can have long-term psychological and emotional benefits. In other words, the more you read, the smarter and more creative you’ll become. And if you read the right stuff, you’ll be a better, happier person to boot. How cool is that?
Although it’s been almost twenty years since Harry Potter was first introduced to the world, and nearly ten years since he defeated the evil Voldemort, the boy wizard is still very much alive in our hearts and imaginations. According to a new study by Italian psychologists, children who have read the Harry Potter books and identified with the Harry character show greater empathy towards people of different backgrounds. The researchers tested three groups of young people and found that the “Potterheads” among them were more accepting of refugees, immigrants, homosexuals, and others who are often stigmatized by society.
What makes this increased compassion possible? The researchers speculate that it comes from reading about Harry’s unhappy childhood and his discovery of the unfairness that exists in the hierarchical world of wizardry. In the story, Harry lives with his disagreeable “muggle” (non-magical) aunt and uncle who grudgingly take him in when Harry’s parents are killed. Soon after discovering his magical roots, Harry realizes that prejudice and bigotry are just as prevalent in the magical world as they are in “our” world. Many of the story’s villainous characters come from privileged, aristocratic backgrounds who make life very difficult for the motley crew of misfits and outcasts that Harry befriends and draws into his circle. By experiencing the world through Harry’s eyes, readers become more attuned to people who struggle in the midst of inequality and injustice.
Our personalities and world views are shaped by many factors—the media, our parents and peers, our religious and cultural backgrounds—and not always in a positive way. But reading a good story, whether it’s Harry Potter or any other with empathetic characters, can also be a factor and go a long way towards helping each of us become the kind of the person we know in our hearts we should be.
LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS
Listen to Listen and Learn Lesson Twenty-Seven LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS track:
Today’s listening comprehension questions will be SHORT ANSWER and based on FACTUAL CONTENT. Listen to each question carefully and write your answer. For the best results, always try to listen to the question without looking at the written questions on the website. Feel free to pause the recording if you need a moment or two to think about the question.
1. What exercises does the passage suggest you do if you are feeling a bit unfit?
2. What does the article advise you to do if you are having a hard time concentrating or are feeling mentally sluggish?
3. If you’ve been studying for an exam all day and want to give your brain a break, should you read a book or watch a movie?
4. What brain “muscles,” figuratively speaking, get a good workout when you read?
5. What do MRI scans taken while someone is reading show?
6. What genre of book should you read if you want to increase your brain’s learning capacity?
7. What were the nationality and profession of the researchers who conducted the study of Harry Potter readers?
8. The researchers found that children who read the Harry Potter books and identified with the Harry character were more accepting of people who are often stigmatized by society. Which particular groups of people were “Potterheads” more compassionate toward?
9. What kind of background did many of the villainous characters in the Harry Potter books share?
10. What factors shape our personalities and worldviews?
LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS and ANSWERS HERE!
You may also download the lesson in PDF format to keep for your reference.
KA WORDCAST: Listen and Learn! Lesson TWENTY SEVEN
KEY VOCABULARY WORDS
Be sure to listen to the Key Vocabulary bonus track. This will help you improve your understanding of the passage itself and give your vocabulary a big boost.
From a neurobiological perspective, reading is a much more DEMANDING mental exercise than watching a movie or listening to an audio book.
In the sentence above, DEMANDING is an adjective based on the verb DEMAND, which means to ask for something very firmly. The adjective DEMANDING describes something that requires a lot of skill, effort, or attention. Some synonyms include arduous, challenging, testing, wearing, and difficult.
Working with small children can be very DEMANDING work, but I really enjoy being a preschool teacher.
Haley left her DEMANDING marketing job in the city to start a dog-walking business.
Though parenting is always DEMANDING work, I found it especially challenging today when my two kids wouldn’t stop bickering.
Manny said that he wasn’t as well prepared as he should have been for the climb up Mt. Fuji, which turned out to be more DEMANDING than he had expected.
A DEMANDING person is not easily satisfied and expects a lot of work or attention from other people. Synonyms for this usage include nagging, trying, tiresome, and hard to please.
All of us parents agree that Mr. Owens is way too DEMANDING and gives our kids way too much homework.
Coach Foster is DEMANDING on the training pitch, but he is quite relaxed and fun to be with off the field.
Finding a suitable nanny for our DEMANDING four-year-old twins turned out to be a lot tougher than we’d ever imagined.
As the company grew and grew, the founder and president became increasingly and necessarily more DEMANDING of his employees.
Reading non-fiction books or articles actually increases your brain’s learning CAPACITY, while reading works of fiction enhances your imagination.
The noun CAPACITY has several everyday uses. In the above sentence, CAPACITY refers to a person’s power or ability to do or understand something. Ability, potential, competence, faculty, and proficiency are some good synonyms for this usage.
Unlike my brother, who speaks four languages fluently, I don’t have the CAPACITY to learn foreign languages.
“Unfortunately, limited financial resources are restricting our CAPACITY to take on any new clients at this time,” the agency’s letter informed me.
We are very impressed with your CAPACITY for hard work, Chloe, and would like to offer you a full -time job.
CAPACITY also refers to the number of things or people that a container or a specific space (such as a room or a hall) can hold.
My little Nissan may only have a fuel CAPACITY of forty-one liters, but I can travel nearly 600 miles on one tank of gas.
The village hall only has a seating CAPACITY of 120 people, so if we want to hold a bigger event, we’ll have to look for a larger venue.
In the days following the earthquake, all the hospitals in the devastated city were filled to maximum CAPACITY.
A CAPACITY crowd of nearly 75,000 spectators packed into the stadium to watch the final game of the season.
CAPACITY can also refer to the official position or function that someone has in his or her job. Role is the nearest synonym.
Gerry has worked in the U.S. Attorney’s office in one CAPACITY or another for the past thirty-five years.
To fill the vacancy, we are looking for candidates who have had a minimum of three years in a leadership CAPACITY.
In technology and industry, CAPACITY has two uses. It can mean the quantity a factory or a plant can produce or the size or power of a piece of equipment. Look at the following examples.
Our production line has had to increase its CAPACITY by 17% to meet the growing demand.
The page-per-minute printing CAPACITY of this new model is nearly three times that of its predecessor.
According to a new study by Italian psychologists, children who have read the Harry Potter books and IDENTIFIED with the Harry character show greater empathy towards people of different backgrounds.
The most basic definitions for the verb IDENTIFY are (1) to be able to recognize someone or something or (2) to find or discover something new. Look at these examples.
The school has been recognized for its outstanding ability to swiftly IDENTIFY pupils who have special educational needs.
If you are planning to go bird watching during your visit to South America, you’ll need a guidebook to help you IDENTIFY the many species.
Ramona was able to positively IDENTIFY her assailant from the database of photo images the police showed her.
Scientists have recently IDENTIFIED a link between pesticides and the diminishing bee population in England.
In today’s reading passage, IDENTIFY is used a little differently. It is part of the phrasal verb IDENTIFY WITH (somebody), which means to feel that you understand and share the feelings of someone else. Sympathize with is a close equivalent.
Of all the characters on the classic TV sit-com, I IDENTIFY most WITH Monica, the person who likes to organize things and make sure everything is neat and clean.
After several years serving in the Peace Corps in Africa, Hayden had a difficult time IDENTIFYING with his conservative father, who had never set foot out of Kentucky.
But IDENTIFY WITH can have subtle differences in meaning and usage depending on the object or objects that follow. When you IDENTIFY somebody WITH something, you consider that person to be that particular thing, as in:
Because of Bryce’s Texas accent, people often IDENTIFY him WITH ranchers or oil-rig workers, when in fact he is a pediatric surgeon.
If you IDENTIFY one thing WITH another, you think the first thing equals the latter, as in:
You should not IDENTIFY wealth WITH happiness because some of the richest people I know are also the most miserable.
According to a new study by Italian psychologists, children who have read the Harry Potter books and identified with the Harry character show greater EMPATHY towards people of different backgrounds.
EMPATHY means having the ability to understand and relate to (or identify with) other people’s feelings or experiences.
Frank has a difficult time forming close relationships with his classmates because he lacks EMPATHY for others.
Because her own parents immigrated to England from Russia when she was just a baby, Natalia has a lot of EMPATHY for the thousands of Syrian immigrants seeking asylum in the U.K.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg says that Facebook needs a “dislike” button as a way for “friends” to express EMPATHY.
To EMPATHIZE means to be able to understand and relate to other people’s feelings or experiences, often because you have been in a similar situation or had similar experiences. Identify with, relate to, understand, and feel at one with are some good equivalents.
I can EMPATHIZE with Shizuko because I also had to move and change schools several times when I was growing up.
According to the latest psychological research, anxiety hinders our ability to EMPATHIZE with others.
People with Asperger’s Syndrome tend to lack the capacity to EMPATHIZE that most of us have.
People often confuse EMPATHY with SYMPATHY. In a nutshell, EMPATHY means to understand or relate to, while SYMPATHY means to pity or feel sorry for.
As a parent, I feel a great deal of EMPATHY for mothers who have had to face the death of a child.
Because Kay was always picking fights and getting herself and others into trouble, no one had much SYMPATHY for her when she was expelled from school.
The researchers speculate that it comes from reading about Harry’s unhappy childhood and his discovery of the unfairness that exists in the HIERARCHICAL world of wizardry.
Before we can look at the adjective HIERARCHICAL, we need to first make sure we know what a HIERARCHY is. A HIERARCHY is a system, especially in society or within an organization, in which people are ranked according different levels of importance or authority. Class system, social system, social order, and pecking order are the closest synonyms.
Sumo is an excellent example of a HIERARCHY where all the ranks, from bottom to top, are clearly labeled, and each person knows exactly where he fits in.
There’s a distinct HIERARCHY in most American high schools, with cheerleaders and football players at the top of the social chain.
Among different monkey species in the wild, the position of females in the HIERARCHY tends to vary.
Now back to the adjective HIERARCHICAL, which simply means to be arranged in a HIERARCHY.
Our children are finding it difficult to adjust to their new school, which has a very different HIERARCHICAL structure than their old school.
During the Middle Ages, “commoners” were ruled by nobles and kings under a HIERARCHICAL system of government.
Anyone who has ever worked on a film set will know that the sets are often HIERARCHICAL mini-societies, with directors and producers at the top and prop and makeup people near the bottom.
By experiencing the world through Harry’s eyes, readers become more ATTUNED to people who struggle in the midst of inequality and injustice.
ATTUNED TO is an adjective that means to be able to understand or to be very familiar with someone or something.
As a new mother, Jenna was not yet ATTUNED TO her newborn baby’s needs.
People have always known that dogs are ATTUNED TO human communication signals, but recent research has shown that the average dog can understand about 165 people words.
The headmaster told his staff to pay special attention to the younger students, many of whom are not ATTUNED TO working in a group or to leading discussions.
From as early as the 16th century, the Incas were ATTUNED TO the alignment of the stars and other astronomical phenomena.
If your ears are ATTUNED TO a particular sound, they are able to recognize it very easily.
A mother’s ears are naturally ATTUNED TO even the slightest variation in her baby’s cries and whimpers.
After having lived in the quiet suburbs, it took me a while to get ATTUNED TO the various sounds of the big city.