Emotions, Language, and Literacy             

So, 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. Dr. Mel Levine, Professor of Pediatrics; Co-founder, All Kinds of Minds Institute; Director, University of North Carolina Clinical Center for the Study of Development and Learning; Author, A Mind at a Time, The Myth of Laziness and Ready or Not, Here Life Comes. Source: COTC Interview: http://www.childrenofthecode.org/interviews/levine.htm#NegativeCollateralEffects

Index:

Related Video(s):

Readiness: Early Life-Learning Trajectories
Readiness (all)

 

See Also: Human Language - Early Language Development  - Language and Reading - Vocabulary - Vocabulary and Reading - Phonemic Awareness - Limited English Proficiency  - Adult Vocabulary

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.


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Quality of Relationships with Important People - Where the Action Is

We have some amazingly compelling neuroscience that shows us how emotional experiences, the quality of the relationships the children have with the important people in their lives, that those relationships and the interactions that go with those relationships and the feelings that go with those relationships, actually influence the emerging architecture of the brain, they sculpt the wiring of the brain. There is no part of the brain, whether it be the way the brain thinks or the way the brain feels, there's no part of it that isn't influenced by these interactions and how the brain circuits are established. And that happens from the very beginning.

Obviously, there are very important cognitive kinds of underpinnings to reading. And there's a significant amount of intellectual development and language development that's necessary to master reading. But your ability to learn to read is also very much influenced by your feelings and your social development.

Now we know, we are learning, obviously have a lot more to learn -- but we're learning so much about how the wiring of the brain, how its architecture is very much shaped by experience and the environment. And what we learned is that the active ingredient in the environment that's having an influence on development is the quality of the relationships that children have with the important people in their lives. That's what it's all about. That's where the action is.

Jack P. Shonkoff, Professor of Child Health and Development and Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, Chair the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child Source: COTC Interview : http://www.childrenofthecode.org/interviews/shonkoff.htm

Word Learning is Connected to Child's Emotional Life

Word learning is intimately connected to a child's emotional life, because infants learn language to talk about and thereby to share those things that they are thinking and feeling: the persons, objects, and events that make up the goals and situations in everyday events that are the causes and circumstances of emotion. The principle of relevance is responsive, in particular, to a child's emotional life and engagement in an interpersonal and physical world.

Bloom L, Tinker E., Teachers College, Columbia University, USA Source: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/102/5/SE1/1272

Born to Learn: Language, Reading, and the Brain of the Child
    
Equally astounding, infants who were exposed to the same language material via DVD Ė either with audio and video or audio alone Ė showed no learning whatsoever.

Patricia Kuhl Co-Director Center for Mind, Brain, and Learning, William P. & Ruth Gerberding University Professor University of Washington.  Source: http://www.ed.gov/teachers/how/early/earlylearnsummit02/kuhl.pdf

Facilitating Language Development  

It is also well documented that television viewing does not enhance language development the way interactions with a nurturing caregiver do. The AAP Policy Statement on Media Education states ďParents should avoid television viewing for children under the age of 2 years. Research on early brain development shows that babies and toddlers have a critical need for direct interactions with and other significant caregivers (e.g., child care providers) for health brain growth and development of appropriate social, emotional, and cognitive skills.  

Donna Rafanello, with contributions by Chet Johnson - Source: Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics

Accumulative Emotional Effect of Language

When we counted up the differences and did that kind of elaboration Ė how many affirmations an hour? The notion that by the age of four the children had heard about 750,000 times that were right and about 120,000 times that they were wrong. With very taciturn parents it was almost the reverse. They only were right about 120,000 times and had heard they were wrong about 250,000 times.

In other words, the massive life-time experience of affirmations and prohibitions indicating youíre right and youíre wrong is a life-time batting average thatís hard to overcome with just a little bit of positive experience.

Todd Risley, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Alaska. Co-Author ďMeaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children.Ē Source: COTC Phone Interview - http://www.childrenofthecode.org/interviews/risley.htm#LanguageEmotionalHealth  (Note: The phone interview transcript does not match the video interview verbatim. The previous quote was taken from the video interview.)

Developmental Pathways and Intersections Among Domains of Development  

As children start to develop language, they begin to form a history of the self (i.e., autobiographical memory). Parents and other caregivers help regulate children's affective experience and assist in the development of a coherent life story and a cohesive self (Palombo, 1992). There is growing evidence that preschool children who have been exposed to significant and persistent negative experiences are at risk for constructing a lexicon of negative affect states related to the self (Nathanson, 1992) and are less adept at behavioral and affective regulation (Shields, Cicchetti & Ryan, 1994). They may develop rigid and controlling ways of interacting with others (Fischer et al., 1997). Adult caregivers influence children's expressive systems by helping solidify links between their cognitive problem solving, emotions, and language use. Parents who talk about feelings and conflicts tend to have children who develop a better understanding of emotion (Bretherton, Ridgeway, & Cassidy, 1990); those who encourage appropriate expression of negative emotions have children who tend to be more sympathetic and socially competent (Eisenberg & Fabes, 1992).  

Catherine C. Ayob, Harvard Graduate School of Education & Harvard Medical School and Kurt W. Fisher, Harvard Graduate School of Education Source: Developmental Pathways

Ripple Effects of Language and Reading Difficulty

I 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. 

So, 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.

They 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.

So, 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.  

Mel Levine, Professor of Pediatrics; Co-founder, All Kinds of Minds Institute; Director, University of North Carolina Clinical Center for the Study of Development and Learning; Author, A Mind at a Time, The Myth of Laziness and Ready or Not, Here Life Comes. Source: COTC Interview: http://www.childrenofthecode.org/interviews/levine.htm#NegativeCollateralEffects

Correlation Between Language or Language Related Learning Disability and Mental Health Problems

And what we found in both studies that was fairly consistent was that roughly two-thirds of children presenting for mental health problems have some sort of language or language related learning disability, and that could include reading.

I see a lot of kids who have learning disabilities, and mostly language learning disabilities, and they just think they're stupid, and they don't want other people to know how stupid.

Nancy Cohen, Director of Research, Hincks-Dellcrest Institute Centre, Toronto, Ontario  Source

Shame Avoidance

In affect terms when a child or an adult feels that an incapacity is their fault, then this sense of being a defective person generalizes to other aspects of the personality. The idea that weíre defective or at fault because we canít read then places us in a position where we want to avoid the bad feeling that comes when we canít do it. And the more afraid we are of the awful feeling of humiliation that comes when we canít do it, the more we avoid the educational process. Itís not just reading, itís the idea of education.   

Donald L. Nathanson. M.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Jefferson Medical College, and founding Executive Director of the Silvan S. Tomkins Institute.  Source: COTC Interview - http://www.childrenofthecode.org/interviews/nathanson.htm#effectoflearningtoread  


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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

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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. 


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