Matthew Effects       

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Matthew Effects in Reading: Some Consequences of Individual Differences in the Acquisition of Literacy

A framework for conceptualizing the development of individual differences in reading ability is presented that synthesizes a great deal of the research literature. The framework places special emphasis on the effects of reading on cognitive development and on "bootstrapping" relationships involving reading. Of key importance are the concepts of reciprocal relationships - situations where the causal connection between reading ability and the efficiency of a cognitive process is bidirectional - and organism-environment correlation - the fact that differentially advantaged organisms are exposed to nonrandom distributions of environmental quality. Hypotheses are advanced to explain how these mechanisms operate to create rich-get-richer and poor-get-poorer patterns of reading achievement. The framework is used to explicate some persisting problems in the literature on reading disability and to conceptualize remediation efforts in reading.

Keith Stanovich, Canada's Research Chair of Applied Cognitive Science at the Department of Human Development and Applied Psychology, University of Toronto. (see COTC interview: http://www.childrenofthecode.org/interviews/stanovich.htm )

The Matthew Effect 

The Matthew Effect was described by Wahlberg and Sty and Keith Stanovich in the domain of reading. It essentially describes what happens to young children when we see the educational disparities that occur and the educational advantages. The Matthew Effect describes what happens over time when some children enter into a positive feedback loop, whereby those who learn to read and break the code with relative ease experience a positive affect and are able to read the text that they are given in schools with fluency. That fluency develops a level of automaticity and because they develop automaticity with sounds and words theyíre cognitive work space is freed to operate on the meaning of print, the purpose of why children are engaged in it. And so the world opens up to children who have that cognitive space left, who have automatized the code and words.

The converse of this Matthew Effect that Stanovich outlined in the mid eighties where he developed a model of the educational haveís and have notís in reading is a sadder tale. Those children who experience inordinate difficulty in breaking the code, who arenít able to quickly assemble these sounds and put them into larger units we call words, and rapidly proceed through the sentences donít develop the level of automaticity that allows them to have the cognitive work space available to them. As a result of that lack of automaticity, their resources are taken away and focused on the word level and they arenít able to operate on the meaning.

So, as a result they find reading to be discouraging, itís less satisfying and this feedback loop begins where because itís not pleasurable, because itís difficult, they donít engage in it. And because they donít engage in it as often they donít develop the automaticity and on and on you go. Now thatís even further compounded by the fact that these educational have notís are given material thatís well beyond their reading ability. So, the cycle gets exacerbated because we donít tack or calibrate childrenís reading level with the print we give them. And so the cycle just gets worse and worse.  

Anne Cunningham, Director of the Joint Doctoral Program in Special Education with the Graduate School of Education at the University of California-Berkeley. Source: COTC Interview - http://www.childrenofthecode.org/interviews/cunningham.htm#MatthewEffect

Downward Spiral of Shame

In our study what we found was that children who made this break through, who broke the code early on in first grade, not only became better readers in high school, which is what weíd predict, but they engaged in print more. So, one of the phenomenal findings of this particular study was that ten years later we could see that those children who broke the code early on began this Matthew Effect, this cycle of engaging in print and because they engaged and were successful in it they enjoyed it and because they enjoyed it they had positive affect and so presumably they practice it more and more. Because they practice it more and more their vocabulary grew, their level of verbal intelligence increased and so when they came upon some complex ideas or complex words, vocabulary items they may not have known, they had the cognitive space to think about, well what does that word mean and then attach it to a similar word so that they can then build their lexicon in a way that allows them to progress through out time.

Not only do we see that theyíre better readers, but that they engage in it more. And thatís what we want to promote because what we see in the Matthew Effects is everyone benefits. So that even the relatively poor reader, the child or student whose comprehension is not as good as the student sitting next to them can still grow and develop in their reading ability, but also their verbal intelligence just by staying with it and just by engaging in print on a daily basis.   

Anne Cunningham, Director of the Joint Doctoral Program in Special Education with the Graduate School of Education at the University of California-Berkeley. Source: COTC Interview - http://www.childrenofthecode.org/interviews/cunningham.htm#DownwardSpiralofShame

The Matthew Effect 2

... About the Matthew Effect, itís not that children are doomed to experience the Matthew Effect if they donít learn to read early on. But the likelihood is there that if you donít get out of the gate early, you wonít engage in print early on. And if we changed our educational system to accommodate and diminish the social comparison and shame, that we would have a much greater opportunity of catching all these children developmentally.   

Anne Cunningham, Director of the Joint Doctoral Program in Special Education with the Graduate School of Education at the University of California-Berkeley. Source: COTC Interview - http://www.childrenofthecode.org/interviews/cunningham.htm#ATechnologicalInterfaceLearninProce


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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

FULL LIST OF OVER 100 COMPLETED INTERVIEWS

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