Children of the Code: Phase 2

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Thank you for continuing on with us…

Whatever drives your interest in reading, whether you want to help a struggling reader, or champion dyslexia legislation; whether you’re a teacher, parent, educational leader, or an activist, the bottleneck to your progress is always learning. For every child and adult who struggles and for all of us as a society, ‘reading problems are always a consequence of ‘learning problems’.

Phase 2 of the Children of the Code Project

Our society’s reading problems are a giant-social ‘case in point’ for how poorly our society understands the role of learning in our lives. The archaic ways we think about reading reflect the archaic ways we think about learning. How we prioritize it politically/economically, our mental models about what reading is, our understanding of the challenges involved, how parents prepare their children for it, how educators teach it, how colleges teach teachers how to teach it… Because reading problems are rooted in learning problems the best way to improve reading is to change how we think about learning. The mission of phase 2 of COTC: To connect ‘poor reading scores’ with the deeper learning issues that underlie and perpetuate them.

Introducing Learning Stewards

Learning Stewards is the non-profit organization behind the Children of the Code Project. Its mission is to make the case for a simple but radical shift in how our society appreciates, understands, and facilitates learning. The Children of the Code Project is one of its main ‘exhibits’.

This site is going ‘live’ today, March 27 2012. In it you will find a wealth of new pages, posts, and videos. Like the Children of the Code website, it will eventually include interviews with field leading scientists, researchers, policy makers, and education leaders. Unlike the Children of the Code site, this site is designed to support dialogue and community learning. Every page, post, and video on this site is an opportunity for you to engage, ask questions, and share your thoughts and ideas with us and a growing community of parents, teachers, administrators, policy makers, therapists, scientists, community/political leaders… We can all get better at ‘activating’ learning and it’s critical that we do… We can all get better at being ‘activists’ about the role of learning in human lives. We can all be better learning-activists.

Please explore the site. As you do, be sure to visit our Key-Memes pages for an overview of what’s available and what’s coming in the future. If you’re familiar with the COTC project, you will particularly appreciate our pages on “The Three Codes“, “Unhealthy Learning” and “Mind-Shame“. To ground you in this phase of our work please take the time to visit “Learning“, “I” am Learned, and the Challenge of Change. In addition the site’s main pages, scan through our blog index for posts about your specific interests.

Please share your thoughts and get involved. Let us and everyone learn from your thoughts, responses, opinions, and suggestions.

Most importantly, please subscribe/connect by using one of the options in the top right corner of this page. We promise we’ll never abuse the privilege. You can subscribe to our blog feed or get updates by email. Over the next couple of months we will be phasing out COTC email updates and using this site’s subscribe/connect system instead. If you want to stay connected with us please subscribe now! If you’ve ever appreciated our work you’re going to really appreciate this next phase. In addition to the site’s Key-Meme resources, we will be blogging on major developments in virtually every field related to learning and reading. By subscribing you’ll receive an update every time we release a new Key-Meme, interview, video clip, post our views on new science articles, or post notices of our upcoming events.

In the near future we will be updating with you new pages including “Artificial Learning” as well as news about our exciting new live event series.

We’re not abandoning COTC we are taking it to the next step. We will be revamping the Children of the Code website very soon and it will continue to grow with new videos and interviews, and we will continue to do reading focused live events.

Enough said for now. Please take a few minutes to explore this new way of looking at learning and this hopeful new path towards shifting the mission of education.

Whatever your interest in reading, your challenge is to learn your way into better facilitating the learning of the people you serve or are asking to support you. Join in the conversation with us – join in the learning with us. If you think we are on the right track (or even an interesting one) please share this site ( with everyone you think might appreciate it.

Thanks again and all the best,

David Boulton, Learning-Activist

PLEASE… We can’t sustain our efforts without your help. If you think we are on the right track, or even one that should be given consideration, then please help us. Please forward our posts as widely as you can. Please contribute whatever you can, $5, $10… whatever you can (see “Donation” button in sidebar). Your help can make a big difference in whether our work succeeds. Thank you.


15 Responses to Children of the Code: Phase 2

  1. Lamese March 27, 2012 at 10:59 am #

    I believe you are on the right track.
    This issue is a major for me as a teacher of language and as a parent.

  2. Susan Carrell March 27, 2012 at 1:18 pm #


    This is beautifully written and I believe a perfect introduction to our initial meeting group. I believe the phrase “the best way to improve reading is to change how we think about learning” is the catalyst to begin bringing everyone together.

    More later,

  3. Judi Munday March 27, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    I wish so deeply your focused insight had been part of every teachers’ education for the last thirty years!! Public school educators with whom I worked for over 25 years consistently hold onto the belief that underachieving students are the cause of their own failures! They are unable, apparently, to see a connection between the student’s academic struggle and weak reading skills — deficits I believe result from inappropriate or invalid choices of instructional methods and curricula.

    With today’s “inclusive” model of education, I see schools now offer Response to Intervention programs to poor readers. Such “interventions,” however, often amount to extra hours of a reading program that failed to teach reading basics in the first place. Once in a while, a struggling student is found eligible for special education, so the school may provide a teacher’s aide. More than likely, however, that aide will read TO the student rather than instruct the child in phonics and word analysis, comprehension, and other essential reading skills.

    In the 1960’s, I was fortunate enough to earn a Master’s Degree at U of I under Dr. Carl Bereiter and Sigfried Englemann, both of whom were ahead of their time in grasping the critical elements necessary for effective reading instruction.. Each had a rich understanding of the need for direct, sequenced and research-driven reading instruction. Tragically, the public schools resisted employing such a “direct instruction” approach and continue to employ ineffective, “whole language/literacy-based” programs — which I believe are responsible for the nation’s appallingly low literacy rates.

    The media reports that America’s schools suffer because of classes that are too big, teachers who haven’t been paid enough, or schools that lack funding, etc. etc…. Why do policy makers and upper level administrators look at everything BUT curriculum? I would like to posit that many under-performing readers are “curriculum disabled!” Struggling readers need to be effectively taught HOW to read so the rest of learning can progress.

    • Ginina Dugdale March 28, 2012 at 8:58 am #

      You have so eloquently stated what I have firmly come to believe after 20 years of teaching in the public education system. I am currently working as a Title I “reading interventionist” in a K-5 elementary school and I can’t wait to use your term “curriculum disabled” with my fellow teachers fighting the good fight. Our district has been using the Houghten Mifflin program for the past seven years or so and although the powers-that-be still insist on it’s benefits as “research based” we, out in the field believe like you that this is another ineffective whole language-literacy based program. Our school has a 40% Native American population, many of whom are low income as well. My principal gets it, and we want to supplement with something much stronger in phonics and word analysis. Any suggestions? Thanks again for your words of wisdom!
      Ginina Dugdale
      Pocatello, Idaho

    • RitaTomaszewski April 3, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

      Mrs/Ms Munday:
      Hurray for your article about reading. You are absolutely right about the curriculum not
      suited for the students that cannot read and understand.
      School has become a warehouse of people not being allowed the privelige of conveying
      this information in order for the person to better themselves bye just this simple skill of
      reading. It is intentionally being denied to them, Now why do I say this to YOU. A society that is not literate is easier to be controlled than ones that are literate. As you explained in your article the schools are just doing what they think they have to do that is dumbing down the students. After all, the way the world is going now, the powersthat be think that is better for all to happen just this way.
      Reading with understanding has never been fully explained to all the parents, after all,
      the parents put the knowledge into their teachers to elicit this skill to all.
      Sad, huh, You are a light that radiates what you have learned and are willing to try
      to bring this information about.
      Please allow for any errors that I have made, however, I think my interest in this subject
      is to be appreciated for all concerned.
      Feel free to respond .

  4. carolyn March 27, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    I agree with the other posters it is a good start. I like the link between speech and reading. I think this is crucial for development.

    • King July 30, 2012 at 8:26 pm #

      There are good and bad of rote learning, dedpens what the subject matter is.If learning, Chinese characters, Japaneses kanji or language, it is helpful to use rote learning, as there is a need, to remember the characters well to form the basic foundation of learning the Language character. Just like we learn ABC, multiplication table.However, it is bad if you learn Science subject / Mathematics by rote learning, as you tend to forget easily if you don’t understand it.

  5. Ruth March 28, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    I’m glad for the research of COTC. Yes Judi, ‘direct instruction’ is the more effective mode of instruction. The content of public school curriculum should be reconsidered. Shouldn’t educators teach the correct spellings of the sounds within our words. Example: 10 spellings of the sound ‘ew’ & ‘ee’ ,9 spellings of “a-e’, 8 spellings of the sound ‘o-e’. etc.? In my experience as a special educator children want to spell correctly not ‘invent’ spelling.
    Thank you for your activism in educational curriculum.

    • Judi Munday March 28, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

      I appreciate the supportive replies for my posting. Unfortunately, I am unable to exercise activism in that arena after taking early retirement from public schools. My conscience would not allow me to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic!!! I have spent the last 13 years supporting home school families who truly want to do what works for their struggling students! In that context, my experience with public education has given me an informed perspective to guide decisions of parents who are tired of banging their heads into brick walls of educational malpractice!

      One major incident contributed to my decision 13 years ago to take an early retirement. The short version: In spring, 1993 I was teaching 3-5th grade students with LD.School administration announced an upcoming adoption of Celebrate Reading (whole-language) program. I took it upon myself to use the sample books and learn how/whether the program taught phonics explicitly, what the actual Fry difficulty level was, etc. It was immediately obvious that the rising 4th grade students would totally founder in the new materials – some 5th GL content was at the 8th grade Fry level of difficulty.

      During an end of the year IEP meeting, a parent (who brought an advocate) asked me directly “What about X’s reading for next year?” I truthfully responded that it would not be appropriate for this student who read at 2nd GL — because I had the facts to back my views!. The special ed. coordinator and vice principal called me into the office immediately following the meeting and severely criticized me for not supporting the school board’s selections. They went so far as to suggest maybe I should be looking for another profession!

      I naively reported this to my principal, and I was rewarded with a letter of reprimand placed in my personnel file downtown for trying to ensure an appropriate education for my student,!

      BTW: The next year, I transferred to a 6-8 GL middle school and continued to lobby for my concerns with the city Director of Curriculum. She simply told me (after my review of over 30 research documents) that Celebrate Reading was NOT a “whole language” program, so my research didn’t really apply!!!

      Ironically, within two years of its adoption, I noted that the city had initiated a separate phonics program into elementary reading curriculum (Duh!)
      So…for all of you who continue to wage the battle – be prepared to be disrespected and shunned! The truth is not what the schools want to hear!

  6. Ruth March 28, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

    I’m not in the public school either, just assumed most teachers are. I was hired in a small city school district because I was using a phonological (words/sounds first and then letters/reading/spelling) curriculum as an intervention and the LD students I taught were learning to read! Unfortuately I was transferred to a LD/ED high school setting (a.k.a. pre-incarceration holding pen- reaiiy!) The supervisor (a.k.a. district henchman)demanded that I pass a truant student. When I realized I would be fired if I didn’t do this illegal act, I had an anxiety attack and my physician gave me a medical excusal. I am now a substitute teacher in another district and will be working with homeschooled students also. I did homeschool my children for 6 years and they did well reading/spelling because of the phonological curriculum I used.
    It is sad our public schools are in such desperate condition, that is why we need organizations such as COTC to call attention to that condition. Hopefully it will be seen by the administrators making curriculum decisions.

  7. Paula March 28, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

    For those of us who ‘know’ what the COTC is saying… the frustration level runs high in regards to public education and the curriculum it uses. As a reading specialist, with a daughter who is dyslexic, I have fought hard for appropriate instruction and materials that would help my daughter grow as a reader and learn to spell with a level of proficiency since 4th grade! At first I tried to educate her teachers during IEP meetings. I asked for and received a phonics based reading program. By 7th grade she was still not decoding…had not mastered 1st grade skills such as digraphs…and was suffering from major depression…because she felt so stupid. Now she is a senior…the road has been so long…multiple IEP meetings, parent advocates, eventually I hired a lawyer and in the end Alyson still did not receive appropriate instruction. Public schools do not want to do right by their struggling learners. The reason from my perspective is the time and costs. So sad! Perhaps someday…I applaud the folks at COTC!! Perhaps with more understanding at the college level…future teachers will be better educated and perpared for the daunting task of teaching those learners for whom reading is so difficult to learn.

  8. Judi Munday March 28, 2012 at 7:03 pm #

    I appreciate your feedback, and I am SO able to empathize. Glad that you are able to support the home schooled children! Too many are choosing to do so because they see no other option. Many of my clients have chosen for religious reasons, but either way – when it is time to teach reading, they need all the help they can have.

    Let me share two websites to support your teaching and working with students. One is my own information (not-for-profit – unless you count getting 1-2 consulting jobs/year!) ( The other is the National Asso. of Special Education Teachers at They are SUPERIOR in illuminating issues, providing practical ideas and research-based information. I only wish I’d had their information available when I was actually in the classroom. Even now, I reference them frequently for helping my consult clients and/or prepping to give workshops at home schooling conventions. Check them out!

  9. Judi Munday March 28, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

    Mona – I appreciate the careful manner in which you’ve prepared your videos. Your comments on this site stated you were successful in using your approach to help your child. I agree f with you that the sounds of letters are critical – but the problem we have 26 letters, but according to Marilyn J. Adams, Beginning to Read, they make 44 sounds that have over 1100 spellings!! That creates a tremendous challenge!

    To add to the problem, most reading teachers today are taught to pronounce consonants by adding a short /uh/ sound after the consonant. This practice will add a phonological load to the child’s short-term memory! I can’t tell you how many public school students I’ve taught who needed to UNlearn that practice so they could begin to truly isolate the sounds correctly and become fluent readers!

    Sounding out FLAG using the additional sounds creates fuh/luh/a/guh — No matter how quickly the child tries to repeat all that phonological information, the final word inevitably sounds like “Fuhlugahguh” The consonants do not make that /uh/ sound in isolation! To hear the isolated sound made by consonants, pronounce syllables made up of an initial short /i/ sound followed by the consonant – such as /i//t/ = it. (or /i/ /d/ = id, as in “hid.” That’s a clean simple sound without an /uh/.

    As you noted, it IS critical that children learn to DEcode and encode. For the instruction to be effective, one should reinforce the decoding with corresponding ENcoding. Thus effective instruction in reading must begin by teaching the children those sounds that follow “regular” phonics rules with clear, isolated consonant sounds, blended in the correct sequence and spoken quickly enough to create a recognizable word. That word can then be pronounced one sound at a time and written as each sound is pronounced. Spelling then is linked with the reading process. Irregular and sight words should be introduced enough to facilitate reading meaningful text as soon as possible.

    Literacy is SO essential. I am glad you have been able to contribute to the discussion!

  10. Judi Munday March 28, 2012 at 7:43 pm #

    Paula – I grieve that you, like too many others, had to endure such an ongoing struggle simply because you wanted something that would help your daughter! How tragic. We can hope that COTC will begin to make inroads in teaching future educators…but honestly, I’m not ready to hold my breath on that one yet!

  11. J. Munday April 3, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    I appreciate your thoughts, Annie, and I agree with you about the threat to our whole society when we have an uneducated population. I’m passionate about helping kids learn to read…and I’m so excited that Learning Stewards has made this such an important focus!

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