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COTC and web resources its topic deserves. 2) Bold is used to emphasize our [COTC] sense
of importance and does not necessarily reflect gestures or tones of emphasis in
the original source. This color indicates COTC edits for
brevity or flow. See referenced original for exact quotes.
It has enormous meta-cognitive implications.The power is this: That
you cannot only think in ways that you could not possibly think if you did not
have the written word, but you can now think about the thinking that you do with
the written word.
sense some of the more interesting aspects of the functions of reading go beyond
the obvious and have to do with the ability of children to think differently in
a way that derives uniquely from written text.
Writing has a
unique function of incorporating within the written text everything that one
needs to know in order to understand the text and it generates a different way
of thinking.Preliterate societies,
even adults in those societies, donít think in the way that people do in
societies that are literate.And so
the process of education, being an educated person in the Western tradition, I
think, depends very much on being able to read and read fluently.
do see some very interesting ripple effects when kids are not acquiring reading
skills. For example, it might be that a particular child in fourth grade is
having difficulty keeping pace with reading comprehension or with decoding, and
because he's having trouble with reading, he hates to read. And when he does
read, he gets almost nothing out of it because he's reading very passively. And
because he's reading very passively, he's not able to use reading as a way of
building his language abilities.
what oddly happens is that his language problems caused his reading problems,
and his reading problems are now causing much more aggravated language problems.
Those language problems, in turn, are going to make it hard for him to follow
directions, communicate well with other people, and even use language inside his
mind for something called 'verbal mediation.' Verbal mediation is the
process through with which you regulate your behavior and feelings by talking to
yourself. And believe it or not, a lot of kids with language problems really
don't use language as a way of regulating themselves.
get in trouble, they get depressed, because they don't have a voice inside that
says, 'Yeah, I could take that medicine. I could take that drug from that kid,
and hey I'm a cool dude. But oh, if I take it, I could like wreck my brain, and
I could get addicted and my mother will kill me if she finds out, and I could
get arrested.' And all of that comes out of language, that sort of verbal
conscience that's guiding you.
if you go all the way back to the language problem and say, yeah, it's causing a
reading problem, and the reading problem is causing the language problem, and
the language problem is causing a behavior problem, and the fact that this kid
can't read, and other people around him can read much better is eroding his
self-esteem, making him feel pretty worthless.
sense, reading and thought become the same thing. To think deeply about
something in a way that is culturally valued often means to be able to
articulate oneís thoughts in a structured, logical way. The experience of
reading well, as well as reading widely, allows a person to do that.
The ability to be self-aware and
self-reflective is a double-edged sword. The ability to think about what
youíre doing and think about what other people are doing and conceptualize
what that means for you personally or for your family members is very much a
product of literacy and the ability to read. The capacity to manage oneself, to
deal with personal problems, to think in terms of long term consequences of
oneís actions rather than in terms of short term consequences. Rather than doing this thing today thatís a
lot of fun, I will do this other thing because a week from now Iíll be better
off. The ability to delay gratification, work hard, depends on thinking
abilities, cognitive abilities that are connected with literacy.
If you can think it through, if you can read a book and find out that somebody
else has gone through these problems and think about how to apply these
experiences at a distance from oneís own circumstance, you can handle things
better. I think that is
important to the psychological development of children and for the ability of
our nation in terms of its citizenry to think about what itís doing and makes
decisions at a ballot box, for example, that are based on reasonable projections
of long term self-interest rather than the emotional vicissitudes at the moment.
Boulton: Is it fair to say that the process of learning to read creates a
cognitive processing infrastructure that wouldn't be there if we didn't, and
that that cognitive processing infrastructure is a significant part of the way
that we think these days?
Keith Stanovich: Oh, yeah. I couldn't agree more. That's a very good
characterization. That is what we started to try to capture in a program of
research that call The Print Exposure Program.
After I published the Matthew
Effects article -- I mean, that was an essentially a model that
synthesized a lot of literature, but we tried to study empirically some of
the effects of differential exposure to print. That's a program that I
undertook with both Anne
subsequent to the Matthew
paper which was published in 1986. For about a decade we were quite involved
with studies looking at the effects of print exposure.
Dr. David Abram: Yeah, absolutely. I guess in a sense, my focus has been that
I've read so many wonderful studies on its influence upon how we think. And, I'm
curious; I've been particularly interested in
how does it affect
how we perceive the world when we're not reading? And, how does it affect our
experience of language, and linguistic meaning once we have become literate,
So, I'm coming as a cultural ecologist and philosopher, and noticing these
things that would be wonderful to unpack at more depth, because it's very
obvious to me, for instance, (and it's amazing that this has not been brought
out, or I haven't seen it in other people working on the alphabet), that only
when the alphabet comes into a culture, when a phonetic alphabet arrives, only
then does that culture get this odd notion that language is an exclusively human
property, or possession. And, the rest of the land falls mute. You don't
experience this in that way among Eastern cultures working with more
ideographic, or somewhat iconic scripts. Certainly not among the Mayan, and
obviously not among the Egyptians.
But, our writing system very, very powerfully not only impacts our experience of
our own subjectivity, it also profoundly impacts our experience of the sensuous
surroundings. So much so, that I would have to say that the alphabet has played
a very crucial role in the deepening environmental crisisóecological crisis that
now besets us on every hand.
David Abram, Philosopher, Cultural Ecologist.
Source: COTC Interview: http://www.childrenofthecode.org/interviews/abram.htm#How_Reading_Affects_Us:
Keith Stanovich: Now let me segue back to that question you asked, because I
think sometimes in education vocabulary is looked at in much too mundane a way. Indeed,
vocabulary is a person's tools of thought.
Boulton: And the exercise environment for extending their verbal
Keith Stanovich: Yes, wonderful. And
extending verbal intelligence, but also a thing I want to stress is the
metacognitive functions, because that's what's coming into play with these
mental state terms.
are ways of interrogating our own cognition. First of all, language gave us a
big -- like just any type of language gave us a leg up on that. This is what
writes very well about in his 1997 book called Being
writes about this, too, quite nicely. So any type of language gives us the
discrete categories, the kind of stabilizing vehicles, where we can -- if we can
stabilize thought with categories, then that's going to encourage the kind of
reflection on our own thought that's the quintessence of metacognitive
Boulton: And "I am," the whole self-reflexive structure of
Keith Stanovich: Absolutely. Then you add in this
Olson emphasis on now you have the tool of language, but what do you have in
your tool kit? What do you have in that carpenter's kit? Do you have just
simple high-frequency clunky words like "think" and "know,"
or do you have "contradict," "concede," "assume,"
and all the mental state terms that he was studying in his work? Do you have a
set of fine blades and screwdrivers?
Boulton: How many bits is your color palette?
Keith Stanovich: Right. That's a wonderful analogy. So to the extent that our
print exposure work showed bootstrapping in these types of domains, I mean, you
better believe that I think this is a bootstrapping of, literally, the tools of
thought. I titled one of our print exposure papers, Does
Reading Make You Smarter?
Boulton: Many people get locked that it's about the knowledge acquired
through the reading, which obviously to some degree, it is; but the capacity for
processing that gets developed in order to learn to read...
Keith Stanovich: Yes.
Boulton: Seems to get lost.
Keith Stanovich: Seems to get lost, yes. I'm right with you.
Stanovich, Canada's Research Chair of Applied Cognitive Science at
the Department of Human Development and Applied Psychology, University of
Toronto. Source: COTC Interview -
Boulton: So, itís an exercise environment. Learning to read well, once
youíre doing it, opens the door to this huge opportunity to exercise your
intelligence that you donít have if you canít read.
Anne Cunningham: Right. And you wonít acquire the level of verbal intelligence
in a technological society such as ours without print. And thatís what is
fascinating about this line of research is that people such as Hays and Aarons
have looked at the oral versus print distributions of words and what you can
readily see is there are lexical items that are found in print that are not
words we use in oral discourse. Because we tend to, as a society, dummy-down our
language and so you would look pretentious if we began to use words such as
dissipate or endeavor. Those are words that are found primarily in print.
The ability to decontextualize -- to stand aside from a media context and
process abstractly. So again, the classic paradigm would be one of syllogistic
reasoning with unbelievable conclusions. You create situations where logical
validity is in conflict with the real world content of the conclusion. So you
give people a syllogism that is valid, but a conclusion that is unbelievable in
the real world. Or conversely, you give people a syllogism that is invalid, but
has a conclusion that is very congruent with world knowledge. Then you look at
people's ability to deal with those types of problems in comparison to their
ability to deal simply with problems that don't involve the necessity of
detaching real world knowledge.
Is writing an aid or a detriment to memory? Plato makes a point that actually sort of differentiates different kinds
of memory. In the Phaedrusheís talking about the fact that Thoth takes writing to Thamus, the king
of Egypt, and he claimed:
the letter would make the Egyptians wiser, and give them better memories. But Thamus
wasnít convinced and he argued that the invention would, in fact, create
forgetfulness because they would trust the external written characters and not
remember of themselves.'
This is the Socrates. This is Noel Humphriesí retelling of
science, letters, will render the wisdom of the Egyptians greater and will give
them a more faithful memory. Itís
a remedy against the difficulty of learning and of retaining knowledge.
Those who learn them will leave to those strange characters the care of
recalling to them all that they should rather have confided to memory.
And they will themselves preserve no actual recollection of these things.
Thus, thou hast discovered not a means of memory but only of
reminiscence. Thou giveth to them
the means of appearing wise without really being so for they will read without
the instruction of masters and think themselves wise upon many things when, in
fact, they will be ignorant, and their intercourse will be insupportable.í
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Dr. Grover (Russ) WhitehurstDirector,Institute of Education Sciences, Assistant
Secretary of Education, U.S. Department of Education Dr. Jack
ShonkoffChair, The National Scientific Council on the
Developing Child; Co-Editor: From
Neurons to Neighborhoods
Edward Kame'enuiCommissioner for Special Education Research, U.S. Department of
Education; Director, IDEA, University of Oregon Dr. G. Reid LyonPast
Director,National Institute of Child
Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Dr. Keith Stanovich
Canadian Chair of Cognitive Science, University of Toronto Dr. Mel
LevineCo-Chair and Co-Founder,All
Kinds of Minds; Author:A
Mind at a Time, The Myth of Laziness &
Ready or Not Here Life Comes Dr. Alex
District Psychologist, Past President, Oregon
School Psychologists Association
J. HeckmanNobel Laureate, Economic Sciences 2000; Lead Author: The Productivity Argument for Investing in Young Children
Dr. Timothy Shanahan President
(2006) International Reading Association, Chair National Early Literacy Panel,
Member National Reading Panel Nancy
Hennessy President, 2003-2005, International Dyslexia Association Dr.
Marilyn Jager Adams Senior Scientist, Soliloquy
Learning, Author: Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print Dr.
Michael MerzenichChair of Otolaryngology, Integrative Neurosciences, UCSF; Member National
Academy of Sciences Dr. Maryanne
WolfDirector, Center for Reading & Language Research; Professor of
University Dr. Todd Risley Emeritus
Professor of Psychology, University of Alaska, Co-author: Meaningful Differences
Sally ShaywitzNeuroscientist, Department of Pediatrics, Yale
University, Author: Overcoming Dyslexia
Director, Professional Development and
Research Initiatives, Sopris West Educational Services Dr. Zvia BreznitzProfessor, Neuropsychology of Reading & Dyslexia, University of Haifa,
LavoieLearning Disabilities Specialist, Creator: How Difficult Can This Be?: The F.A.T. City
Last One Picked, First One Picked On Dr.Charles
Professor, Psychology & Linguistics; Senior Scientist and Associate Director,
R&D Center, U. of Pittsburgh, PA
Senior V.P. & Dir. of Research,
Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis; Co- Author:
Economics of Early Childhood Development
Dr. Richard VenezkyProfessor, Educational Studies, Computer and
Information Sciences, and Linguistics, University of Delaware
Dr. Keith RaynerDistinguished Professor, University of Massachusetts, Author: Eye
Movements in Reading and Information Processing Dr.
Paula TallalProfessor of Neuroscience,
Co-Director of the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, Rutgers
SearleMills Professor of the Philosophy
of Mind and Language, University of California-Berkeley, Author:
Mind, A Brief Introduction
ResearchCenter, Penn State Dept. of Human Development
& Family Studies;
CASEL Leadership Team Dr.
Terrence Deacon Professor of Biological
Anthropology and Linguistics at University of California- Berkeley Chris
Doherty Ex-Program Director, National Reading First
Program, U.S. Department of Education Dr. Erik Hanushek Senior Fellow,
Hoover Institution, Stanford University
Dr. Marketa Caravolas
Director, Bangor Dyslexia Unit, Bangor University, Author: International
Report on Literacy Research Dr. Christof
KochProfessor of Computation and
Neural Systems, Caltech - Author:The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach
Professor of Languages and Cultures of Ancient
Mesopotamia, Holland; Author: Unfolding
Language Robert Wedgeworth President, ProLiteracy, World's Largest Literacy
Organization Dr. Peter Leone Director,
National Center on Education, Disability and Juvenile Justice Dr. Thomas CableProfessor of English, University of Texas at Austin, Co-author: A History of the
Ecologist and Philosopher; Author: The
Spell of the Sensuous Pat Lindamood and Nanci Bell
Principal Scientists, Founders, Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes Dr. Anne Cunningham
Director, Joint Doctoral Program in Special Education, Graduate School of
Education at University of California-Berkeley Dr. Donald L.
NathansonClinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at
Jefferson Medical College, Director of the Silvan S. Tomkins Institute Dr.Johanna
DruckerChair of Media Studies, University of Virginia, Author:
The Alphabetic Labyrinth
John H. Fisher Medievalist,
Leading authority on the development of the written English language, Author:
The Emergence of Standard English Dr. Malcolm RichardsonChair, Dept. of English,
Louisiana State University; Research: The Textual Awakening of the
English Middle Classes James
Executive Director, National Center
for Learning Disabilities
Physician; Best-Selling Author:
The Alphabet vs. The Goddess Robert SweetCo-Founder,
National Right to Read Foundation
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