Index of Topics - Notes: 1) This page is a work in
progress and does not yet comprehensively cover its topic or include all the
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
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from first through third grades there is a lot of oral reading, and there are
interactions where the kids are expected to read out loud, orally or in round
kids are hesitant, disfluent, inaccurate, slow and labored in reading, that is
very visible to their peers and remember the peers, the other kids, again look
at reading as a proxy for intelligence. It doesnít matter if this kid is
already a genius and can do algebra in the second grade, reading produces
particular perceptions. Better said,
lousy reading produces a perception of stupidity and dumbness to peers and
clearly to the youngster who is struggling. That is the shame. There are
very visible differences between kids who are doing well with print and
youngsters who are struggling with print. They
feel like theyíre failures; they tell us that.
the classroom situation thereís a multiplication effect. The more trouble
any individual has reading in a classroom situation, the more likely that child
is to have further shame affect interruption of the normal interest in reading.
Immediately downstream what do we have? We see kids who simply say I donít
want to read. I donít want to try because every time I try in class Iím
going to feel worse. Iím not going get rewarded like Francine or Billy, Iím
going to get laughed at and that hurts.
first the shame comes from being unable to decipher the code. Then thereís the
shame that comes because you did it in public. And then thereís the next level
of multiplication of shame experience; that the other kids will compare you to
them and they feel better than you for that moment and your position in class is
reduced tremendously.That means the
simple failure to figure out what the letters mean on the printed page has not
only become difficult for you to understand yourself, but itís placed you in a
position relative to your peers where you are defined by them as lesser and
itís acceptable to laugh at you and deride you for this inability to read.
youíre reading one-on-one with a parent, a loving tutor, an older sibling
whoís helping you and you feel safe, then that moment of shame is not
magnified as it is in the classroom situation. So, when tutoring one-on-one, the
nature of shame is that we feel less dangerously exposed if we feel loved.
Itís merely exposure. But when weíre in the atmosphere of the classroom
where every other child in that classroom is at risk of feeling exposed and
compared invidiously to every other kid, then an error I make in reading reduces
me in everybodyís eyes and Iím better off not trying.
Grover (Russ) Whitehurst: Part of the
complex of reading failure is increasing frustration by individuals, children
who are failing to read at their success in school and what school is all about.
can in some cases, in desirable cases,
resolve in greater motivation to try
to get help and succeed.
But in many cases it
generates a sense on the childís
part of helplessness; helplessness not only with reading, but helplessness with
school. You find those children turning to other avenues to gain reward to gain
they donít read well, so they donít read. They may play a computer game
because theyíre better at that. So, you find individuals shifting their
activities into areas which they are getting a sense of satisfaction, a sense of
reward, and away from activities that are frustrating, and thatís certainly
the case for reading.
see a pathway taken for children who are failing to read and itís a way of
preserving their self-concept of succeeding, but itís a pathway that is not
ultimately to their benefit because it takes them away from the activities from
which they can derive knowledge and develop the skills that are important for
success in school andin life.
Boulton: At a somewhat more implicate level the emerging emotional sciences,
with respect to Ďaffectí and its driving and directing influence over
cognition, have suggested that we operate in a way that once shame gets to a
certain threshold level we want to move away from it. The National
Institute of Child Health and Human Development research studies are saying
that children, because of the way we contextualize this whole reading
experience, are feeling that there is something wrong with them because they
canít do this.
weíre back to our beginning points:most of our children are to some
degree in this space, for some degree of their education, feeling ashamed of how
theyíre learning. And if shame causes us to want to move away from what causes
shame, then we want to move away from learning.
Grover (Russ) Whitehurst: Yes, thatís certainly true. And we need
solutions to this. We need curriculum solutions so that fewer children
experience frustration and difficulty during the task of learning to read. We
need to change the context of schooling so that the child whoís struggling in
reading in third grade can have that problem addressed in a way that isnít
stigmatizing to the child and doesnít generate the sense of shame. We need in
some way to break out of the lock-step nature of elementary education so that if
you donít have what the other children have in first grade for some reason you
are forever doomed and will never get the opportunities to pick up that
is a very significant problem and the emotional and social consequences of
reading failure are extremely important and are the soquali of the bad
experiences that come from sitting down with text and not being able to figure
out whatís going on, or not being able to figure out whatís going on at the
level of oneís peers.
often the implicit comparison with what other kids are doing in the classroom
that generates not only the shame, but in some cases, the lack of motivation to
do better. That is, if the overall expectations for that classroom, those
children are low, then thereís no shame on anyoneís part with reading
failure or low level reading success. The teacher isnít ashamed, the school
district isnít ashamed and the state isnít ashamed.
need to create a context in which people understand that there is a problem,
that they need to deal with it, but the child doesnít experience shame for
having not benefited from the type of instruction or societal support necessary.
Boulton: Yes. One of our interests is to explore
what happens when children become so ashamed of how they feel about themselves
in this process that it creates an almost preconscious aversion to it.
Sally Shaywitz: Well, I think that's true. I've had the good fortune to
speak to many people who are dyslexic, and who've been highly successful by
anyone's standards. But if you speak to them, as I have, and you ask them:
"Well, what was it like for you when you were a child, particularly,
what was school like?" And you see this terrible look on their face.
Particularly they recall the really horrible experience of being called upon to
read aloud in class, in front of everyone when they couldnít do it.
Sally Shaywitz: That's the kind of mental image and emotional experience that
stays with a child. It's really remarkable how many adults will remember that
and can picture that classroom and how they felt and how they wanted to get out
of there and avoid that at all costs.
Boulton: Right. Almost everyone we talk to speaks about this feeling level
connection with people who are suffering with this challenge.
Sally Shaywitz: Yes, this isn't an academic abstraction, it's about real
people who have to live with something that people don't see, and that's why
I guess it's been a really wonderful thing that the science has progressed so
far, and that we actually now have the ability to see the brain at work, so we
can actually see what is happening at the most basic levels.
interviews: Participation in a Children of the Code interview does
not constitute or imply an endorsement of the
Children of the Code project or
documentary by the interviewee. Conversely, including an interview does not
constitute or imply an endorsement of the views, organizations, books or
products of the interviewee, other than
as explicitly stated, by the Children of the Code Project and documentary.
For more information about Children of the Code events please click here or call:502-290-2526
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
The Children of the Code is a Social Education Project
and a Public Television Series intended to catalyze and resource a social-educational transformation in how we think about
and, ultimately, teach reading. The Children of the Code is an
entertaining educational journey into the challenges our children's brains
face when learning to read. The series weaves together archeology, history,
linguistics, developmental neuroscience, cognitive science, psychology, information theory, reading
theory, learning theory, and the personal and social dimensions of