Friday, January 16, 2009

David Macaulay

who's not to be confused with David McCullough (he's the one that wrote 1776).

My husband has a learning disability that made learning to read difficult for him. As a result of the struggles, he didn't particularly like to read when he was younger. The only book he has ever talked about with fondness from his pre-7th grade days (or so) is The Way Things Work by David Macaulay.

He would check this book out from the library and spend hours pouring over the pages. He admits that there were a lot of things he didn't really understand, but it was so interesting to him that he just kept coming back to it.

When I heard that our local library (in connection with the local art museum) was hosting an author's night featuring David Macaulay, I knew that we had to attend.

We got there a bit early and purchased a copy of The New Way Things (as it's the only version still available) as well as a book called Castle that was the other book he remembers loving as a child. Funny that the two were by the same author.

Mr. Macaulay mostly talked about his newest book, The Way We Work, which is all about the ins and outs of the human body. He did a great job making the subject matter accessible. He worked on this newest book for about 6 years (!) and showed early drawings as well as some of the drawings that actually made it into the book.

My favorite part was when he talked about how he drew even before he understood what was really happening. He said something along the lines of: "I teach myself by drawing" and went on to say that while reading and writing are a very important part of learning, he thinks we need to incorporate other ways. For him, the "other" way is to draw whatever it is he is studying.

Personally, I would have hated being forced to draw as I was learning a new concept, but my husband commented that he thinks he learns the same way. Until he's had a chance to work it out physically, he doesn't really understand a concept. Which, is probably the reason we own approximately one billion legos.

Macaulay infused a lot of fairly dry humor into his talk, and we both really enjoyed ourselves. If you ever have a chance to hear him speak, I would highly recommend it.

And, for those of you with struggling young readers (who have an engineering-type mind - it's definately not for everyone) The New Way Things Work or The Way We Work may be worth looking into.

You can learn more about David Macaulay and his books at his website.


Chain Reader said...

What a great experience! We've got some engineering minds in our family that would love both of these.

LetRVoiceBHeard said...

What a wonderful experience. Interesting as I too would work things out by drawing. When I was young I would take models and wouldn't read the instructions as reading was difficult but looked at the photo's and followed them to a tea. Getting everything just the way the picture was. My brothers always would give me their models to do as they would miss a few parts even with reading the instructions or if they lost it they knew I could build it.

Janssen said...

Thanks so much for commenting! I think the Hero and the Crown will be up soon, since I love other books by Robin McKinley. Thanks for the reminder!

I love David Macaulay - when I was a kid, we had a CD version of one of his books, and I remember watching it over and over again on the computer with my dad and playing the little games that went along with it.