Children of the Code

A useful place to find helpful blogs and websites with a wealth of information about reading.
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Children of the Code

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Sat Jun 06, 2015 1:08 am

Here you can access a collection of 'interviews' and video snippets from many of the world's experts in the field of reading:

The Children of the Code Project is a ‘case in point’ for how poorly our society understands learning and the personal and societal costs of unhealthy learning. Consisting of over 100 interviews with field leading scientists and scholars the COTC project has produced over 140 video segments that cover subjects ranging from the origin of writing to the neurology involved in producing the virtual language experience we call reading.

The Children of the Code is a project of Learning Stewards a 501(c)(3) non profit organization. Founded in 2008, its mission is to ‘make the case’ (economically, politically, socially, neurologically, psychologically, educationally, parentally) for “stewarding the health of our children’s learning”.

Most children who struggle with reading experience the struggle as a reflection of something wrong with themselves - something to be ashamed of. Unintentionally but pervasively, parents, schools, and society as a whole contribute to perpetuating this insidious myth. Children don't think that their reading troubles might be the result of normal differences in their genes and brains 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 conversation before they started school - they don't think that their teachers didn't teach them correctly - they don't think the confusion they experience is a consequence of an archaic and artificially complex 'code' that presents a completely unnatural processing challenge to their brains... no, they blame themselves - they feel ashamed of themselves - ashamed of their minds. Statements like: "I'm dumb", "I'm stupid", "I'm not smart", "I'm not good in school" are all strategies to protect themselves from the shame they feel.
Last edited by Debbie_Hepplewhite on Tue Nov 13, 2018 12:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
Lucy Prabhu
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Re: Children of the Code

Postby Lucy Prabhu » Sat Jun 13, 2015 2:27 pm

Thank you for reminding me of this resource Debbie. I came across it earlier this year and was profoundly moved by a discussion between two professionals on the impact of poor reading and the feeling of shame.

It seems to me to be an extremely interesting area of study - how poor literacy in the English-speaking world impacts personal psychology and in turn upon behaviour in society. Is there a body of knowledge out there on this topic or a key text I could look for?

Thank you.
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Re: Children of the Code

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Thu Jul 16, 2015 1:50 pm

Hi Lucy,

Sorry to take so long to get back to you on this.

Two recent items were drawn to my attention recently which brought your question to mind - so I'm posting this information here in response to you but I'll also post this information under a new topic heading on the 'General Forum'.

Kerry Hempenstall provided these statistics for the attention of the DDOLL network recently and I have his permission to supply them here:

A few bits and pieces on prison and literacy:

81. Of the voluntary assessments undertaken by Corrections Victoria across all prisons in 2013, 59.5 per cent of prisoners had literacy levels requiring intensive support and 57 per cent had numeracy levels requiring intensive support 39. (39 Corrections Victoria, Fact Sheet LLN Results 2013, September 2014).
82. Corrections Victoria data suggests that the Year 12 completion rate of Victorian prisoners has varied between five and seven per cent in the past decade40. In contrast, the Year 12 (or equivalent) completion rate for all Victorians between 20-24 years of age in 2013 was 90.1 per cent41.

The Victorian Ombudsman. (2014). Investigation into the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners in Victoria. Discussion Paper, October 2014. Retrieved from ... 4ba6abaf9/.

Prisoners and disadvantage

All prisoner demographic information confirms that prisoners, as a group, are significantly more disadvantaged than the general population. The description below by John Ryan MLC, Chair of the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the Increase in Prisoner Population (2002) still applies generally:

The prison population consists of men and women who are, on average, of lower socioeconomic status, of poorer health and of lower levels of education than the rest of the population. For example:

· 60% of inmates are not functionally literate or numerate;
· 60% did not complete year 10;
· 64% have no stable family;
· 60% of males and 70% of females had a history of illicit drug use.

Indigenous men and women and those with an intellectual disability or a mental illness are significantly over represented. The majority of prisoners who pass through the prison system each year serve sentences of less than six months.

Baldry, E. (2008). The booming industry: Australian prisons. Submission to debate, October 2008. School of Social Sciences and International Studies, UNSW.
Of particular concern are approximately 80% of the males and 50% of the females whose results indicated level 1 or 2 literacy or numeracy. They are the most likely to have difficulty with text-based management systems, personal development programs, or education and training programs.

Searle, J., Schluter, C., & Cox, R. (2008). Literacy Unbarred: Investigating the literacy and numeracy levels of prisoners entering Queensland correctional centres. Griffith Institute for Educational Research, Griffith University. Retrieved from ... -08web.pdf.

On June 30 2012, there were almost 30,000 people behind bars in Australia. 3 in 4 prison entrants have not studied past Year 10 and only 17% have completed Year 12.
Australian Institute for Health and Welfare. (2013). The health of Australia's prisoners 2012. Retrieved from
In 2001, DCS reported that 60 per cent of inmates at that time were not functionally literate or numerate (NSW Legislative Council, 2001, p. 20).
Grunseit, A, Forell, S & McCarron, E 2008, Taking justice into custody: the legal needs of prisoners. Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney (2008). Retrieved from ... CB4F8.html


Many prisoners have low levels of educational attainment and had irregular school attendance all of which impacts on their ability to obtain and maintain employment post-release. For Indigenous prisoners, educational attainment is even lower, further compounding social and economic disadvantage.

The average school leaving age for people in prison in 2009 was 15 years.8
60% of prisoners are considered functionally illiterate or innumerate.4
73% of Aboriginal male prisoners and 60% of Aboriginal female prisoners left school before Year 10.7
43% of non-Aboriginal male prisoners and 39% non-Aboriginal female prisoners left school before Year 10.7
Community Restorative Centre (no date). Retrieved from
4 Baldry, E. et. al. (2003) Ex-prisoners & accommodation: What bearings do different forms of housing have on social reintegration for ex-prisoners, Position paper 27, AHURI, Sydney: UNSW & UWS Research Centre.
Meanwhile, back in the USA:

70 percent of the prison population falls into the two lowest levels of reading proficiency.
National Institute for Literacy. (1998). Fast facts on literacy &fact sheet on correctional education.

Literacy statistics and juvenile court

· 85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.

· More than 60 percent of all prison inmates are functionally illiterate.

· Penal institution records show that inmates have a 16% chance of returning to prison if they receive literacy help, as opposed to 70% who receive no help. This equates to taxpayer costs of $25,000 per year per inmate and nearly double that amount for juvenile offenders.

· Illiteracy and crime are closely related. The Department of Justice states, "The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure." Over 70% of inmates in America's prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level. ... erently%29

The Literacy Skills of Inmates

About 7 in 10 prisoners perform in Levels 1 and 2 on the prose, document, and quantitative scales. These prisoners are apt to experience difficulty in performing tasks that require them to integrate or synthesize information from complex or lengthy texts or to perform quantitative tasks that involve two or more sequential operations and that require the individual to set up the problem

The average proficiencies of the prison population are 246 on the prose scale, 240 on the document scale, and 236 on the quantitative scale. Their proficiencies are substantially lower than those of the household population, whose proficiencies average 273 on the prose scale, 267 on the document scale, and 271 on the quantitative scale

The racial/ethnic composition and educational attainment of the prison population differ from those of the household population. About 65 percent of prisoners are minorities versus 24 percent of the household population. About 51 percent of prisoners have completed at least high school or its equivalent, compared with 76 percent of the household population. These differences in demographic composition help to explain the lower average performance of inmates as compared with householders

Educational attainment is highly related to literacy proficiency. Prisoners who have not received a high school diploma or GED demonstrate lower levels of proficiency than those who have completed high school, earned a GED, or received some postsecondary education.
Male and female prisoners do not perform differently from each other on the literacy scales. Both male and female prisoners demonstrate lower proficiencies on all three scales than their household counterparts.

National Center for Education Statistics. (1994). Literacy behind prison walls. U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Retrieved from

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Re: Children of the Code

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Thu Jul 16, 2015 1:52 pm

And here in England, the Institute of Education (London) draws attention to the worrying lack of statistics about 'prisoner literacy levels' here: ... tatistics/
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Re: Children of the Code

Postby JIM CURRAN » Mon Jul 20, 2015 1:38 pm

Hi Lucy, I've been familiar with Children of the code website for many years now and used it extensively.It's full of so much useful research. If you have a bit of time I recommend:

Dr. Donald L. Nathanson - The Role of Affect in Learning to Read
How Shame Exacerbates Reading Difficulties ... hanson.htm
Lucy Prabhu
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Re: Children of the Code

Postby Lucy Prabhu » Tue Jul 21, 2015 10:51 pm

Thank you Debbie - that's very detailed information, and shocking.

I have read that interview before Jim, thank you - it is so informative and for me, deeply saddening when I think about my son's journey through primary school.

I also found this on the same Children of the Code website:

"Reid Lyon talks all the time about the number of states in the United States who use reading skill levels in third grade to project how many prisons they're going to need twenty years down the line. That’s horrifying to think of that, but they really do. Their prison-building programs are based on the literacy rates in the third grade and they're figuring in twenty years they're going to need this many prisons based on the number of kids who can't read in third grade. That's how close the correlation is. That's how real the correlation is."

(taken from an interview between David Boulton and Rick Lavoie)

I'm also searching the same site for any information about remediation after reading instruction ie. how do you deal with the psychological fallout from the shame of a reading difficulty? Does it miraculously pass away once reading is accomplished? Does it lurk around a child's mind, perhaps impacting on other areas of life still? I wonder if anyone's done any research on this?
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Re: Children of the Code

Postby JIM CURRAN » Fri Jul 24, 2015 1:01 pm

As some one who spent a lifetime, over 40 years working with older poor readers I saw daily at first hand the emotional fallout from not learning to read and the effects and consequences for some children were more severe and debilitating than for others,though none escaped unscathed .Prevention rather than remediation must be our first priority. Here's an article from the 1998 edition of American Educator that's worth a read Lucy "Catch them before they fall" by Professor Joseph Torgesen.

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