Anahola-based reading researcher seeks to build a huge island learning network

On a national level, nearly 70 percent of all fourth-graders, and 60 percent of high school seniors, do not read proficiently.

A Kaua’i-based researcher wants to change all that, and aims to build on this island a learning network to show, among other things, that a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific can be at the forefront of a reading revolution.

David Boulton of Anahola is producer of “Children of the Code,” which will be a three-hour series on Public Broadcasting System networks once the work is completed.

The show traces the history of reading and writing, focusing on what happens in the brains of those who learn reading easily, and those who struggle.

He plans to introduce Kauaians to the series at public meetings this week. On Tuesday, April 1, the venue is Island School behind Kaua’i Community College, in Puhi, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

On Wednesday, April 2, the two-hour session beginning at 6 p.m. is at Kilauea Neighborhood Center.

With most of the nation’s social problems being pinned on people who didn’t learn to read well in early schooling, the problems facing those who never learned to read well to Boulton is akin to the fighting going on in Iraq.

“This is a war going on to me,” Boulton said, pollution of the ecology of learning caused by forcing upon young brains not always equipped to process them an English alphabet and certain letter combinations that sometimes perplex even literate adults.

He feels he has come across a cure, though, a series of cues that will allow beginning readers to get past stuttering heard in oral reading and experienced in the brain in silent reading.

Boulton’s “orchestrated reading” aims to queue in the code, and queue out the shame. Those who don’t learn to read well go one of two ways, he said. Either, they conclude “I’m stupid,” or that reading is not that important of a skill, “and we gotta deal with that,” he said.

The idea behind the Kaua’i sessions is to teach parents, teachers and other adults involved in education to make the connections between what’s happening in the brains of young readers to cause the stuttering, or confusion, and allow them to work with children to show them the stumbling blocks and give them cues to overcome those problems.

In “Children of the Code,” children are interviewed to provide insight into what’s going on in their young minds when they’re reading, what they’re telling themselves as printed letters on a page are processed and translated into words, thoughts and sentences in their brains.

People have to learn well to learn to read, he said.

A California teacher is already introducing cues to her classes, and is seeing oral reading progress, he added.

While the first “Children of the Code” is not yet finished, Boulton already has plans for a Hawai’i-specific sequel, which will take into account the Native Hawaiian language, history of the islands, and problems unique to this state.

He sees Kaua’i as a place to prove that his unique system of teaching reading will work.

The Kaua’i sessions are getting support from businesses from Hanalei to Hanapepe, and various nonprofit groups on the island. Ho’ike Kaua’i Community Television, Inc. is airing promotional spots on the Kaua’i meetings, including a 30-minute piece Boulton has prepared.

A Ho’ike camera crew will also film the April 1 event, to be aired in its entirety at a later date.

For more information on the Kaua’i sessions, free and open to the public, please call 822-7808, or see http://www.implicity.org.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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