Term Paper: Shame in Context of Literacy

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[. . .] When someone speaking in a language that is not their own native tongue, it can be extremely difficult to form the words in an attempt to communicate what they want to say. Imagine that someone is trying to read in a language that is foreign to them- the words and sentences staring up at them, completely indecipherable. The obstacles that students face that cannot read like others in another language are considerable- and the obstacles bring about shame. Not being as able to read with the fluency, not understanding all of the vocabulary, not knowing the phonics or being phonetically aware and not being able to understand the text are all significant challenges that these foreign language readers face. To that end, these readers are not able to truly meet the areas that The National Report of National Reading Panel asserts because of the language barrier. These barriers will inhibit these students from becoming a proficient reader, unless they work extremely hard to overcome these hurdles.

But, it is important to note, that overcoming hurdles in the classroom is certainly easier said than actually done. There are many different behaviors that a foreign language reader can exhibit that may make it nearly impossible for the foreign language reader to ever attain a proficient reader status. For instance, if a student has a lot of difficulty pronouncing the words in another language when reading out loud the student is subject to ridicule by his or her peers. This ridicule may or may not result in the foreign language student exhibiting shame by avoiding reading all together. A natural defence mechanism that a foreign language student would do is to avoid reading in class all together, or simply have a strong aversion to the idea of reading out loud in class. By exhibiting characteristics of avoidance, as the theory outlines, this may result in the student never having the opportunity to further build on their skills to a point where they can ever become a proficient reader. To build on the avoidance component of the shame theory developed by Nathanson, foreign language students might also be self-deprecating in an effort to keep their shame more internalized. There is also a chance that the student can become withdrawn from the entire idea of reading. Not being an active or purposeful reader, as The Report of National Reading Panel stated, will continue to contribute to the gap separating a basic reader from a proficient one. Being withdrawn from the words on the page or not making the effort to learn what is going on will inhibit a foreign language reader from being a proficient reader.

When someone, like a foreign language reader, lacks the basic skills it is an extremely arduous task to overcome them and not experience a sense of shame for the lack in knowledge and grasp of the language and text. Failure and setbacks are inevitable in learning how to do something proficiently and these failures and setbacks that a foreign language reader might experience will have a detrimental effect on the reader in the short- and long-term. Shame when reading in a second language can have significant pedagogical implications, as reading is the very cornerstone of academic instruction. Without being able to read, classroom texts are difficult to grasp and ultimately, the assessments will be difficult to comprehend as well. Ultimately, not being able to complete the requirements of the class and doing poorly on the assessments, as a direct correlation of not being able to read the text proficiently, may have dire consequences on foreign language readers ability to complete schooling or a degree.

Conclusion and recommendation

After exploring the plethora of information that has been outlined by scholars in the Children of the code and The Report of National Reading Panel, the skill of reading is something that helps individuals through their entire lives. By first exploring the difference between basic and proficient reading, it lays a framework of where individuals should aspire to reach in their reading skills, and also provides areas that are imperative to focus on to ultimately reach the point of being a proficient reader. Though, not all students get to the point of being a proficient reader, and for that reason it is important to explore the realm of reading causalities and the ideas that fall into that category including instructional casualty, as well as instructional confusion.

Shame in reading, especially for foreign language readers, has serious educational consequences as well and can have negative implications in the future. There is a lot of shame involved in the process of becoming a proficient reader, and when starting from scratch essentially, the shame grows exponentially. Being a foreign language reader is an almost ideal example of how shame can accumulate and how it can manifest itself, and the pending consequences.

Reading is imperative to complete schooling in the United States and to become a proficient reader ensure success at the college level and beyond. Through the examination of this topic through different lenses, the flaws in reading instruction are exposed but with this, one can only hope that improvements can be made so everyone, including those who live in poverty or even those whose language is foreign, has given the opportunity to read.


Armbruster, Bonnie B, Lehr, Fran, & Osborn, Jean. (n.d.). The research building blocks for teaching children to read: put reading first. Retrieved from http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/upload/PRFbooklet.pdf

Grabe, William. (2009). Reading in a second language: moving from theory to practice. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Koda, Kieko. (2004). Insights into second language . Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Lyon, Reid G. . (2003, September 11). Instructional confusion. Retrieved from http://www.childrenofthecode.org/library/refs/instructionalconfusion.htm#InstructionalCasualtiesLyon

Nathanson, Donald. (2003, September 8). The effect of affect on rading. Retrieved from http://www.childrenofthecode.org/interviews/nathanson.htm

Nation, I.S.P. (2009). Teaching efl / esl reading and writing. New York, NY: Routledge.

Whitehurst, Grover. (2003, September 10). Research: evidence-based education science and the challenge of learning to read. Retrieved from http://www.childrenofthecode.org/library/refs/basicproficiency.htm#DifferenceBetweenBasi%20andProficient [END OF PREVIEW]

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