Illiteracy is a challenging burden for seven million Americans
By Monica Semrad and Lindsay Peaster
Language-Literacy Connection Morgan County Primary School
Take a moment and think of all the things you do each day that involve literacy – reading the paper each morning, making a grocery list, writing a note to your spouse, reading a story to your child at night, and so much more. Those things are not options for some in our community. The gift of literacy has eluded them. They are surrounded by a foreign language they do not understand.
How in the world do we expect them to survive? Many people today have found ways to do just that – they survive. They develop ways of hiding the fact that they are not literate, and they manage to take care of themselves and their families anyway.
The lack of literacy is a daily problem, not just for them, but also their children. How can they help their children read and write if they can’t? What a horrible burden to carry. The children struggle even more with no one at home as role models to help with homework. These people are definitely examples of determined survivors who have done their best to deal with this problem in their lives. However, their road to survival could have been so much easier if they could have read the road signs. Surely not one of them would wish that his or her children would never learn to read and write. All parents dream of their children doing better in life than they have done. No one wishes illiteracy on another, yet it is still a problem in our society.
What are we to do? At home, we have to develop a love for reading and writing as early as we can in our children. Read to them each day. Write them little notes. Point out daily the importance of reading and writing. In our community, we can get involved by becoming a mentor, volunteering at the local schools, donating money to the Ferst Foundation, or donating books or money to the local library.
Why should we do these things? Here are some alarming statistics:
Approximately seven million Americans are illiterate.
It is estimated that the cost of illiteracy to businesses and taxpayers is $20 billion per year. (United Way, “Illiteracy: A National Crisis”)
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 33 percent of all fourth graders nationwide still cannot read at even the basic level.
In low-income neighborhoods, the ratio of books per child is one age-appropriate book for every 300 children. (Included in the “Handbook of Early Literacy Research” Vol. 2., edited by Susan Neuman and David Dickinson)
A Morgan County second grader was overheard saying, “Spelling is connected to writing, and reading is connected to writing because if you can’t read, you can’t write. If you can’t write, you can’t spell.” Even at this young age, he has grasped the importance of literacy. He has the gift…and now he’s ready to share it.
Printed in the January 26, 2009 edition.