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Supporting Developing Readers Who Have Experienced Compounded Trauma

Categories: Curriculum & Access, Early Literacy, Education & Teaching, Educators, General, Student Centric Learning, Teacher Best Practices

Systemic trauma refers to the contextual features of environments and institutions that give rise to
trauma, maintain it, and impact posttraumatic responses." Goldsmith et al., 2014

Systemic trauma and oppression are more common than often realized and can be found in any environment and institution in America including our classrooms, schools, and districts. Trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can have a lasting and profound effect on a child’s learning development, learning engagement, and learning outcomes. 

In our January Spotlight on Early Literacy and the Whole Child conference, three thought leaders presented various ways that systems in early education can inflict trauma. They drew upon their combined research and teaching experiences to provide techniques to identify and negate systemic trauma. This blog provides a brief overview of this important topic for education leaders. 

You can register to view the full presentation on-demand to earn CE certificates and learn about:

  • multiple ways students can experience trauma,

  • the impact trauma has on the 'whole child' in neurology, cognition, affect, and behavior, and

  • strategies to engage traumatized learners in literacy learning.

Our Panelists

Dr. Karyn Allee-Herndon, Assistant Professor of Elementary Education at Mercer University, Dr. Annemarie Kaczmarczyk, Assistant Professor of Childhood Education at Suny Cortland, and Dr. Wynnetta Scott-Simmons, Professor in the Departments of Graduate Teacher Education and Curriculum and Instruction in the Tift College of Education at Mercer University. 

Various Ways Systems Inflict Trauma

In our education system, there are multitudes of stressors likely to cause trauma in students, especially for those who are marginalized and living in poverty; including those facing food insecurities, dealing with bullying, racial tension, neighborhood violence, and students with cross-cultural differences and language constraints. To identify behavioral markers of children with trauma and to reduce tension, our thought leaders recommend several techniques to bridge the communication gap and deepen relationships with children. 

View the full presentation on-demand to learn about the fight, flight, freeze and fawn trauma response model; how children who experience trauma have exaggerated responses to stimuli in the brain; how responses to trauma disrupt a child’s neurodevelopment, social, emotional, and cognitive behaviors. Learn techniques to promote fairness, talk about discrimination, and ways to counteract stress responses to promote higher self-esteem and positive approaches to learning. Learn how to construct a welcoming literacy environment – one that addresses systemic trauma, ACEs’ and sensitive issues with early and emergent readers – with the use of proven strategies and resources in class instruction.


DiagramDescription automatically generatedOur thought leaders also share important resources for teachers such as Zaretta Hammond's book, "Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain," to better understand how our brains are hard-wired to react to trauma. 

To broaden your knowledge on literacy and leadership from many top literacy leaders, view this presentation and any previous Spotlight session on-demand to earn CE certificates. Learning Ally’s next Spotlight series on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion is March 30, 2022. Dr. Sherril English will discuss the foundational importance of literacy in achieving equity in disadvantaged populations. Please join us!