Shame and Self-Trust               


Related Video(s):

CLICK TO GO TO CHAPTER: We Have A Problem: What's At Stake
Emotional Danger
Social Danger

SHAME: The Dark Heart of Reading Difficulties

See also:  Index of all topic pages related to shame

Return to 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 brevity or flow. See referenced original for exact quotes.

Share this:          


Dr. Edward Kame'enui: You know, Harold Bloom has a book called How to Read and Why. Harold Bloom is a Shakespearean scholar at Yale and he says, "The reason we read is to develop self-trust." And developing self-trust takes years of deep reading. So, kids who don't read don't develop that self-trust because they can't get access to the information. They can't access to the ideation.

David Boulton: They don't develop a self-trust in their ability to be abstractly self-reflective.

Dr. Edward Kame'enui: Absolutely.

David Boulton: They could have great potentials but they...

Dr. Edward Kame'enui: That's right. They can't compete at the idea level because they don't have enough ideas that they can grab.

David Boulton: Or be able to engage in sufficient complexity of intellectually abstract processing.

Dr. Edward Kame'enui: Exactly.

David Boulton: Thatís what I like about Stanovich and Cunningham, who brought forth what reading does for the mind.

Dr. Edward Kame'enui: Absolutely. That's right.

David Boulton: This is a whole other lobe and dimension of virtual human extension that we need to survive in the world today and if we shame out on it we're in big trouble.

Dr. Edward Kame'enui: Absolutely. I mean, Jonathan Kozol says, "You don't read, you don't make choices." How can you? Itís critical. And we can do this. 

Edward Kame'enui, Past-Commissioner for Special Education Research where he lead the National Center for Special Education Research
under the Institute of Education Sciences.
 Source: COTC Interview -

What Happens When You Can't Trust Your Brain?    

Dr. Paula Tallal:  What happens to you when you canít trust your own brain to take care of this for you? What are the kind of defense mechanisms you might develop? Attention problems, impulsivity, acting out, being the class clown - anything is better in many ways for your self esteem and sense of well being than believing that you canít trust yourself to even process the information in your world. Thatís very scary.  So, I think that you develop these other mechanisms.

David Boulton:  This is shame avoidance.

Dr. Paula Tallal:  Itís a shame avoidance to one self. Itís not only the external. I think we often think about the child who is developing behaviors to cope in terms of how other people are going to treat them, thatís certainly important. But I think ultimately it comes down to how you feel about yourself and can you trust yourself to get through the world, to keep you safe, to perform well, to make you feel good about yourself. And a lot of that has to do with automatic processing and automatic control of the information thatís coming into your world. I think a lot of children who are struggling with that will develop a lot of compensatory behaviors to try to gather a sense of being in control. Even if it makes them get in trouble, at least they were in control of getting in trouble. Whereas they cannot be in control of failure if they really canít do it, and that feels a lot worse. Thatís just a theory, itís not scientific.

David Boulton:  This where affect science comes in. Itís an important connection.

Dr. Paula Tallal:  Yes. Thatís why Iím saying some of this, and though this is not my scientific theory, it is my experience with doing psychotherapy with families and children. One of the things that has been so interesting is family therapy.  When a family comes in primarily because they have a child who has a learning disability and you get started talking about the child  what you often find is that thereís become so much focus on the learning disability for this child that the rest of the family, even the brothers and sisters, lose track of the other qualities of the child. If you go around the room and you ask everyone to say something positive or good about what each person is good at, for the other kids in the room in the family will say ĎHe does this, he does that wellí or whatever. But when you get to the child with the learning disability theyíre always trying to figure out something academically that that child is good at. ĎWell, thatís kind of tough, yeah, he can kind of do math pretty well So this kid has just become the academic part of himself. So, you say well isnít there anything else this child does well? ĎOh I donít know, heís not really good at spelling and heís terrible at reading.í Well, what about other things this child may do well? ĎWell, kind of okay at geographyÖí and you finally sayÖ

David Boulton:  This is the parent version of teach to the test though, isnít it?

Dr. Paula Tallal:  Yes, exactly. And then you finally say well does he have any friends? ĎOh yeah, people just really like him, you know, heís so nice and the neighbors sayÖí  Well, doesnít that count? ĎOh I thought you just meant about academics.í  They have gotten so focused because the school has gotten so focused and everything has become about this one area the kid is not good at, at the exclusion of all these other abilities this child does have. Many times the therapy is about rebalancing for the parents.

One of the things I often tell kids in private is, ĎYou know what? When you grow up no one is ever going to test your reading again.í And sometimes getting the parents involved in doing the testing has been really interesting because we do family genetic studies and test all the members in the family and just to see them remember what it was like to be tested. A lot of times theyíve forgotten how uncomfortable it is.  

Paula Tallal. Board of Governor's Chair of Neuroscience and Co-Director of the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience at Rutgers University. Source: COTC Interview -

Share this:          

There is no substitute for your first-person learning.

SIGN UP HERE to receive general updates about our project or news of future interview releases 

Note about 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:

Dr. Grover (Russ) Whitehurst  Director, Institute of Education Sciences, Assistant Secretary of Education, U.S. Department of Education
Dr. Jack Shonkoff Chair, The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child; Co-Editor: From Neurons to Neighborhoods
Dr. Edward Kame'enui Commissioner for Special Education Research, U.S. Department of Education; Director, IDEA, University  of Oregon
Dr. G. Reid Lyon  Past 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 Levine Co-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 Granzin  School District Psychologist, Past President, Oregon School Psychologists Association 
Dr. James J. Heckman Nobel 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 ScientistSoliloquy Learning, Author: Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print
Dr. Michael Merzenich Chair of Otolaryngology, Integrative Neurosciences, UCSF;  Member National Academy of Sciences
Dr. Maryanne Wolf Director, Center for Reading & Language Research; Professor of Child Development, Tufts University
Dr. Todd Risley  Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University of Alaska, Co-author: Meaningful Differences
Dr. Sally Shaywitz  Neuroscientist, Department of Pediatrics, Yale University, Author: Overcoming Dyslexia
Dr. Louisa Moats  Director, Professional Development and Research Initiatives, Sopris West Educational Services
Dr. Zvia Breznitz Professor, Neuropsychology of Reading & Dyslexia, University of Haifa, Israel 
Rick Lavoie Learning Disabilities Specialist, Creator: How Difficult Can This Be?: The F.A.T. City Workshop & Last One Picked, First One Picked On
Dr.Charles Perfetti Professor, Psychology & Linguistics; Senior Scientist and Associate Director, Learning R&D Center, U. of Pittsburgh, PA
Arthur J. Rolnick Senior V.P. & Dir. of Research,  Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis;  Co- Author: The Economics of Early Childhood Development  
Dr. Richard Venezky  Professor, Educational Studies, Computer and  Information Sciences, and Linguistics, University of Delaware
Dr. Keith Rayner  Distinguished  Professor, University of Massachusetts, Author: Eye Movements in Reading and Information Processing
Dr. Paula Tallal  Professor of Neuroscience, Co-Director of the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, Rutgers University
Dr.John Searle  Mills Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Language, University of California-Berkeley, Author: Mind, A Brief Introduction
Dr.Mark T. Greenberg Director, Prevention Research Center, 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 Koch Professor of Computation and Neural Systems,  Caltech - Author: The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach
Dr. Guy Deutscher 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 Cable  Professor of English, University of Texas at Austin, Co-author: A History of the English Language
Dr. David Abram Cultural 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. Nathanson  Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Jefferson Medical College, Director of the Silvan S. Tomkins Institute 
Dr.Johanna Drucker  Chair 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 Richardson   Chair, Dept. of English, Louisiana State University; Research: The Textual Awakening of the English Middle Classes  
James Wendorf  Executive Director, National Center for Learning Disabilities
Leonard Shlain Physician; Best-Selling Author: The Alphabet vs. The Goddess
Robert Sweet  Co-Founder, National Right to Read Foundation


HELP US: If you appreciate this interview and the work of the Children of the Code project please take a few minutes to share your thoughts with us. Your comments and feedback not only help us learn to better serve you, they help us get the support we need to continue the project.  Click here to read what others are saying about the Children of the Code Project.

SIGN UP HERE to receive general updates about our project or news of future interview releases 

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 illiteracy. 




Copyright statement:  Copyright (c) 2014, Learning Stewards, A 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization, All Rights Reserved. Permission to use, copy, and distribute these materials for not-for-profit educational purposes, without fee and without a signed licensing agreement, is hereby granted, provided that "Children of the Code -"  (with a functioning hyperlink when online) be cited as the source and appear in all excerpts, copies, and distributions.  Thank you. (back to top)