Monday, May 19, 2014

More on Illiteracy for a Literacy Based Industry

 A re-post of my topic on the Writer's Vineyard

According to research published last April, the National Institute of Literacy (part of U.S. Department of Education) reported that 19% of students graduating from U.S. schools cannot read. Wow!? Do you find that as disturbing as I do? What is happening to our basic education system? I know public high school teachers in some areas have especially hard and precarious teaching assignments. However, these illiterate students face a difficult future because 63% of prison inmates cannot read. In other words, you can guess where they are likely to land, and other studies show the link between illiteracy and violence. It is not only in the U.S., illiteracy is a global problem. Worldwide 66% of the world’s 774 million illiterate are women. (Emerging in many locations from a barefoot and pregnant philosophy in education, I’m sure.)

All statistics need closer review. For instance, out of the 14% of U.S. adults considered illiterate, does that mean in English only? Can they read in another language? And how many had an undiagnosed learning disability that prevented the individual from reaching reading proficiency? Experience shows this still happens. This statistic, while considerable, is low compared to a hundred years ago, or even fifty years ago, but it seems to have reached a plateau, changing very little over the last decade. This means these people cannot read tax forms, fill out employment forms, or be sure what their prescription label states. What these numbers do not show is that as of 2011, 50% of U.S. citizens read below the eighth grade level. Wondering about your book's low sales rates?

It is proven that parents influence a child’s literacy: literate parents have literate children, probably by setting good examples and standards. I don’t have the answer, and I know libraries and schools are trying to address the problem, but it is not enough. If we envision a better future, along with all today’s and tomorrow’s other problems, we need solutions to improve literacy.

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