About the Videos


Imagine how well you might have learned your way into life if you had grown up feeling ashamed of your ability to learn.

According to the latest NAEP scores (1) over 60% of our K-12 school children are below the proficiency level in reading.  Their reading skills are below the level necessary for the brain-work of reading to be transparent to the brain-work of learning from what they are reading.  According to the latest NAAL report (1), over 90 million adults are living lives significantly constrained by their lack of reading proficiency.   The individualsocialpolitical, and economicimplications are staggering.  The price tag is many hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

Learning to read isn’t like like learning a sport or a craft or a form of art or music.  It’s not an option in our schools or society. Day after day, week after week, month after month there is no escape from reading. Not only is it everywhere, but how well children read effects how well they do in virtually every aspect of school which, in turn, profoundly effects how they are maturing in general.  For those who struggle with reading the struggle is confusing, frustrating, and shaming. Chronic confusion-frustration dulls the intellect. Chronic shame eats away at self-esteem.  The lives of tens of millions of children and adults are seriously-adversely affected. Beyond the obvious loss of opportunities in schoolwork, and life,  the insidious collateral consequences that accompany learning to read difficulties are even more painful.

Children who struggle with reading don’t think the cause of their struggle might be just a normal difference in their brain analogous to being tall or short – they don’t think that maybe their parents, siblings, and other care-givers didn’t engage them in enough complex dialogue before they were four  – they don’t think that perhaps their teachers didn’t teach them correctly – they don’t think their confusion is a consequence of an archaic and artificially complex ‘code’ that represents a completely unnatural processing challenge to their brains… no, they blame themselves. “I’m dumb”. “I’m stupid”. “I’m not smart”. “I’m not good in school”.  Some little ones may start off saying “reading is stupid” or “reading isn’t that important”, but in the long run they can’t sustain such self-protective notions. Some kids later on may be able to say “It’s not my fault” – “I have LD”, “I have dyslexia”, “I have ADD”, but it is still about them – they still believe that whatever isn’t working right is in them – is them.

How often do you engage in activities that make you feel ashamed of your mind – ashamed of your ability to learn? Do you seek out such activities or do you avoid them? Imagine what it must be like to grow up believing that there is something wrong with your mind – to grow up feeling ashamed of your mind.  Imagine what your life would have been like if you grew up emotionally averse to reading.  How would that have affected your learning in general and consequently your trajectory through school and later life?

Children who struggle to read experience the struggle as a reflection of something wrong with themselves.  Their naturally intelligent tendency to avoid what causes them to feel ashamed of themselves ends up motivating them to avoid learning. It is learning disabling. Unintentionally parents, schools and society as a whole contribute to perpetuating this insidiously learning disabling myth when in fact, according to our nation’s highest ranking education scientist, nothing could be farther from the truth:

“The shame has to be shifted…. There are some small number of children, who because of biological problems, either specific to the underlying circuitry for reading or general in terms of retardation and otherwise, who are going to have difficulty in learning to read. But that’s a very small proportion of the overall population. Reading failure for nearly every child is not the child’s failureit’s the failure of policy makers, the failure of schools, the failure of teachers, the failure of parents. We need to reconceptualize what it means to learn to read and who’s responsible for its success if we’re going to deal with the problem.     Dr. Grover Whitehurst, Director Institute of Education Sciences, Assistant Secretary of Education, U.S. Department of Education (COTC interview).

Why? Why are so many children and adults experiencing reading difficulties and suffering such life-harming consequences? What can we do? While many in the country seem to engage in rhetoric, educational politics, and superficial debates about competing ideologies, methodologies and products, many if not most of the ‘experts’ closest to the problem think about it quite differently:

“If I had my druthers, instructional methods wouldn’t be the big deal. What would be the big deal is if teachers could ask themselves: what does it take to learn to read?” – G. Reid Lyon – Ex-Branch Chief, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (COTC Interview)

The problem is our society’s lack of insight into what is involved in acquiring literacy.” – Dr. Louisa Moats, Sopris West (COTC interview)

The Children of the Code Project is an effort to help provoke and resource a socially widespread reconceptualization of the importance of reading and the challenges, from the child’s point of view, involved in learning to do it.

Though we are very concerned with improving literacy levels we are even more concerned with the impact of reading difficulties on the ‘health’ of our children’s overall learning. Through hundreds of hours of interviews and many hundreds more of research, we have come to see prolonged learning to read difficulties as the root of our nation’s most pervasive and expensive learning disability. We’ve also become persuaded that Dr. Moats is right, we as a society are busy debating solutions to a problem that we don’t sufficiently understand.  The fact that so many millions of children and adults blame and shame themselves for their reading difficulties is just one symptom of how shallow that understanding is.

There have been many attempts to promote and improve literacy. Yet, after decades of literacy campaigns and reading wars there isn’t much evidence of overall improvement. The lives of tens of millions of children and adults are still being seriously-adversely affected by reading improficiency and its insidious collateral consequences.  Part of the reason for this is that the proponents of literacy and/or better instruction tend to come with ‘baggage’. Politics, ideologies, methodologies, institutional funding needs, and marketing agendas all contribute to obscure the issues. They also tend to advocate “solutions” through the lens of how to improve the ‘teaching’ of reading. While we are grateful for all who have contributed to increasing social awareness of the importance of literacy, the Children of the Code project comes at it differently.

First of all rather than exploring reading through the lens of teaching it, we explore reading through the lens of the challenges experienced in learning it.  Secondly, we have nothing to sell. We don’t advocate a particular methodology. We don’t endorse any experts or gurus. We are non-political.  We are not a project of the government, a university, a church, an institute, or a for profit corporation. Our allegiance is simply and strictly to the health of our children’s learningOur basic premise: regardless of ideologies or particular methods of instruction, the better teachers and parents understand the challenges involved in learning to read the better they can apply their preferred ideologies and methods to helping children through those challenges. Thus, the primary mission of our project is to help teachers, parents, and all who care for children develop a deeper first-person understanding of the “the code and the challenges involved in learning to read it”.


So far, we have interviewed over 110 leaders in the fields of neuroscience, cognitive psychology, linguistics, orthography, instructional design, child, adult, and family literacy, teaching, government policy, and many other fields related to understanding the challenges involved in learning to read. We have also interviewed over 40 struggling readers between the ages of 4 and 30.

Though our website will include tens of hours of video, we are editing the ‘jewels’ of our interviews into a series of short stand-alone modules. Our intention is to provide a comprehensive learning environment on our site that is made up of a modules that can also be easily added to other outside web pages, slide-show presentations, courseware, podware, and online media formats (see “Sharing the Videos”). We want to provide modules for parents who need issue-specific resources to advocate for their child, for college professors who want to develop more effective courses, for literacy organizations that need help fund raising, and for school board members or school superintendents who want to make the case for real change. We are also creating a number of narrated/guided tours that we will release closer to the end of the project. These tours, more like traditional documentaries, will become TV broadcasts and DVDs. One of the DVDs will be for parents, another for literacy volunteers, and finally a more elaborate set for use in professional development.

As part of our overall support and dissemination strategy and in order to get the kind of feedback we use to continually improve the sequences, we frequently do live events. We delivered the keynote address to the Florida State Literacy conference and presented our seminar at the American Library Association’s Annual Pre-Conference. We have presented at over 40 live events including events on behalf of: numerous state departments of education and special education, the national conferences of organizations like the School Mental Health Association and the National Center for Family Literacy, community organizations, local school districts, and for some corporations like Scientific Learning and Lindamood-Bell. Our events weave Children of the Code sequences and multimedia content into an exciting and perspective-shifting learning experience. They are designed to help re-orient how teachers, parents, literacy volunteers, counselors, justice workers and the public in general thinks about the ‘code and the challenge of learning to read it.’ Comments about our events from attendees and professional development event organizers are available at: www.childrenofthecode.org/comments.htm   For more information, please see:www.childrenofthecode.org/workshops/

Embedding the Videos in your Site

Embedding the Videos in your Site and Sharing the Videos via Email

Please share the videos with everyone you think might benefit from them.

While all the video segments we produce will be available online on our website, most of them will also be freely available as stand alone modules that can be easily embedded and played within other non-profit educational websites.  At anytime the video player’s toolbar allows viewers to simply and quickly “add” the video playing to their own websites (again non-profit educational sites only). The toolbar also allows viewers to “share” a  particular video sequence with their colleagues and friends by simply entering email addresses and optional comments. This results in the system generating and dispatching messages that will enable the recipients to view the video in a stand alone and optionally personalized format.

Two Modalities

Video Navigator Mode Expanded Mode (future)

We anticipate two distinctly different modes of using our online video resources. A video navigator mode and an expanded mode. The video navigator mode is for people who are primarily interested in viewing the videos. Consequently, we have designed a navigation and presentation system that showcases the videos, keeps the context of each video present, and allows for simple DVD-like navigation between the sequences. The expanded mode is for students, researchers, and anyone interested in learning beyond the depths possible in linear video. In this mode each video segment serves as an orientation piece as well as a central organizing hub for accessing an array of resources related to the issues raised and points made in the video. Currently only the video navigator mode is functional but we are working on the expanded mode. Once functional, learners will be able to move instantly between the two modes while maintaining focus on anyone of the videos. The video player’s “more” button will provide the means for jumping between modalities. In the expanded mode, each video will be accompanied by other Children of the Code resources and by links to other articles and research around the web.

Contributor Acknowledgements

It is very important to the long range effectiveness of our project that we remain objective and free from commercial, political, and ideological agendas. Again, we will not engage in the business of selling or endorsing any particular methods or products. However, there are many institutions, non-profit organizations, and corporations who stand to benefit from our project. In order to keep our resources freely available while also continuing our work to expand and improve them we need financial contributions. Consequently, we will be offering PBS-like still-image, animated, and video acknowledgments of between 3 and 5 seconds that will play before and after our videos do. Again, we will not endorse products or methods but we will acknowledge with appreciation the support we receive from companies and organizations who see the merit of our work.

Ways You Can Help:

We can use all the help we can get. If you are interested in helping the project please take a moment to visit: (http://www.childrenofthecode.org/helpus.htm ) there you will find instructions and links that will assist you in exploring the various ways that we might work together. After you have explored the page and determined how and if you would like to participate, please select among the available options on that page and we will follow up with a response.



1) discount the NAEP and NAAL data to whatever you think is reasonable and the dimensions of the problem are still staggering.

2) in editing the sequences we endeavor to be brief.  However, the subject of each sequence is worthy of a documentary. Many of the sequences will have longer playing versions in the future.