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Futures are all but Fated by Reading
Dr. Grover (Russ)
Whitehurst: Yes, that’s true. Particularly if we go back to the
bookend analogy. Those children who are the caboose on the train, at the bookend
on the left side of the books, are children who are at substantial academic
Children who are failing at
reading at the end of the first grade are extremely likely to be failing at
reading at the end of fourth grade. And failure in reading strongly predicts
failure in all other academic subjects. So a child who is not breaking the code
well, who has not figured it out, who is falling behind, is a child whose
academic life course is at risk and because of that whose life is at risk
because the economic opportunities of life.
Again, at the lower end of the dimension are ones that have profound effects on not only obvious things: quality of life dimensions, how much money one earns, or the neighborhood one lives in, but actually have effects on longevity, on how long you will live.
So reading again, is absolutely fundamental. It’s almost trite to say that. But in our society, as it is structured, the inability to be fluent is to consign children to failure in school and to consign adults to the lowest strata of job and life opportunities.
of Our Children are All but Fated
Dr. Reid Lyon: Absolutely. And if you look at that figure, that only a small percent of our kids are proficient in what it takes to read, understand and generalize content information, that figure is clearly related to instruction.
Boulton: However, relative to
reading, everybody seems to agree that most of our children are to some
degree having difficulty with it. It’s all but fating their lives.
Louisa Moats: Right.
Louisa Moats: Yes.
a consequence of an unnatural, overwhelming ambiguity forced upon the child while
nobody is giving them a stairway through it before they shame-out
to the process. The
itself then impedes their cognitive ability to process it, as well as diminishes
in general with all of its transferred effects.
we have this massive problem that when we cut it down has to do with the
Dr. Louisa Moats: And why is that the case? You’re extremely articulate about it.
Boulton: One of the things that gets me
though, is that what we’re saying in effect is that the
majority of our children, to some degree, are having their lives all but fated
by how well they learn to interface with an archaic technology.
Reid Lyon: Well, by archaic technology,
if you mean lousy teaching…
I mean by the code itself.
Reid Lyon: Well, I see what you mean.
not going to change the code, I’m sure.
Reid Lyon: Yeah.
I agree that we’re not going to change the code. I’ve been a
student of the hundreds of years of many attempts to change it.
Reid Lyon: Right.
though we haven’t been able to change it, I think that there’s something to
be gained by trying to understand it.
Reid Lyon: Absolutely.
much of this problem is connected to the ambiguity that’s pent up in this code
and where it came from?
Dr. Reid Lyon: There are scholars, as you know, who study this up the wazoo and know how the Latin and Greek influences and other influences effected …
collision between two different language systems…
Reid Lyon: Right.
resulted in this great ambiguity.
Reid Lyon: Right. But we can look at
very transparent languages like Spanish and you’ll
probably still see a very limited number of
proficient kids, all things being equally matched on background and environment
and all of that. In other words, you do see similar difficulties even in
transparent languages. And it is referring…
David Boulton: Do you have studies on that you can send me?
Reid Lyon: Sure.
Reid Lyon: In other words…
indexed against how much time and instruction has gone in?
Dr. Reid Lyon: Well, I don’t know if we’ve done it that well.
Boulton: What we’re saying is
that how well children learn to read is all but fating to their academic,
economic, psychological, intellectual, and cognitive health – that it’s that
pervasively powerful. A great deal of this depends on the soundness of the
instructional process, the educational process and also on the preparation of
the child long before they get to school, how well they are unfolding. That it
is in fact critical, how they come to school, how well they’ve started to
develop and exercise the kind of sound and letter distinctions and familiarity
with the correspondence between oral and written language, which are the ideal
ground to pick up from and move with in education. That solidly rests on the
Wendorf: All of us have a
responsibility to kids, to our youngest kids. Certainly parents have that
responsibility to help them develop the language skills, the literacy skills so
that they are ready to embrace school when the time comes. And it’s true that
who come from backgrounds of poverty are at a tremendous disadvantage. By the
time they actually enter kindergarten, they’re lagging in skill development
and their vocabularies are dwarfed by the vocabularies of children of
middleclass and upper-middle class homes who’ve been surrounded by language in
very different ways.
And so they enter the school door, they enter the classroom really lacking the equipment, lacking the context to even understand a lot of what the teacher might be saying. They don’t know the names of things. It’s not just that they don’t know, in many cases, the letters of the alphabet. It’s that they don’t know the names of things. They lack language.
David Boulton: Now I'd like to invite you to go into this question that I asked earlier about the relationship between learning disabilities in the field and reading, and reading as a learning-disabling process for those that don't get it.
Rick Lavoie: Right.
David Boulton: To an extent that it's just mind-boggling to me, when we look at the various things children are at risk for, that they might develop that could do harm to their lives, that could diminish their potential in life, the risk of having some reading-related difficulty that can harm their life is greater than everything else we pay attention to combined.
Rick Lavoie: Absolutely. Reid Lyon talks all the time about the number of states in the United States who use reading skill levels in third grade to project how many prisons they're going to need twenty years down the line. That’s horrifying to think of that, but they really do. Their prison-building programs are based on the literacy rates in the third grade and they're figuring in twenty years they're going to need this many prisons based on the number of kids who can't read in third grade. That's how close the correlation is. That's how real the correlation is.
David Boulton: What we're basically saying is this comes back to the shame avoidance, the kind of things that you've been talking about. What we're saying is that children that struggle with learning to read become self-disabled in some ways. Their relationship with themselves becomes disabled. They become more prone to social pathology, and it radiates, at massive expense to our society as a whole and to our population as a whole, to such an extent that this is the nation's greatest learning disability.
Rick Lavoie: There are a number of schools within the field of education; in terms of the way we view the relationship between reading and learning. I come from the school where the inability to read is a symptom of a larger language problem. The overwhelming majority of kids who have difficulty, who have learning problems, have difficulty reading. And the overwhelming majority of kids with reading problems also have learning problems. So, I have a difficult time teasing the two of them away because they are so fundamental and so interlocked.
Rick Lavoie, L.D. and Special Education Professor, Source: http://www.childrenofthecode.org/interviews/lavoie.htm#PrisonBuildingPrograms