BOOK REVIEW: ABOUT LEARNING by Bernice McCarthy (About Learning, Inc, 2000)

About Learning by Bernice McCarthy is the picture on the box of a jigsaw puzzle. It’s the guidebook for left-brained educators who have struggled to understand thought patterns of their right-brained students and colleagues. With a unique two-page format of expert quotations, sketches, and diagrams on the left side of the book and interpretation/application of ideas written in the form of poetry on the right side, Ms. McCarthy invites the left-brain thinker to experience how a right-brain thinker processes information. For right brain thinkers, she uses her life experiences coupled with extensive research and study to create a way to organize information about learning styles and how people process experiences. A left-brain reader will be challenged and stretched by this way of conveying information because of its unique format. The right-brain educator who has felt like a square peg in a round hole will rejoice that someone has finally discovered how to communicate with them creatively and effectively.

McCarthy’s ability to synthesize several well-known principles of education and psychology in a highly creative format has resulted in an encyclopedia of information–greatly condensed and quickly accessible. Using these combined concepts, educators will be able quickly to identify a problem, organize the data, generate solutions, and test the outcomes in a variety of situations. Within this same book, educators can find ways to assess quickly their students’ learning styles and to adapt lessons to the learners’ needs. As educators meet individually with a student or walk about the classroom, they will be able to quickly identify the right-brained student by the appearance of their notes–pictures, diagrams, scrawled sentences, arrows connecting ideas, and colored ink. Such a student has little patience with minute details and often does poorly on objective tests. Identifying the right brain students allows an educator to take advantage of their creativity in project groups while balancing the groups with more traditionally organized students.

“A Learner’s Story” about Leah (p 398) ends with Leah describing what she remembers most about high school–the repeated question of, “Leah, why can’t you be like everyone else?” For Leah and the other right-brain readers, here is my book report:

I know at least
five people who read
About Learning.
Not one
Said, “Marcia,
You’ll love this book.”
Not one saw my desk as anything except
Too much to do/Too little time piles of paper.
Not one had really listened to my silence
Or observed my frustration
Trying to balance my checkbook.
Not one realized why I draw pictures
Or create tables instead of reading and reading
And writing and writing
Both those methods are so slow.
About Learning
About Learning is the one book
That speaks my languages–
All of them at once.
I rejoice–Someone thinks like me
And found a way to give
Right-brained ideas
A way to be expressed.

Rating: 5 Stars (out of possible 5)

–Reviewed by Marcia Backos, Program Director, Bryant and Stratton College, OH

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