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Can Your Child Read? Literacy Matters More Than Ever

Updated on October 31, 2008

Literacy is more important than ever

"To participate fully in society and the workplace in 2020, citizens will need powerful literacy abilities that until now have been achieved by only a small percentage of the population." - National Council on Teachers of English Standards for the English Language Arts

Now that we are fully entrenched into the 21st century, reading is more vital than ever. Technology is developing quickly and is becoming more and more prevalent in every aspect of life. The World Wide Web has become the most important tool for nearly everything we do.

Paying bills, doing research, catching up on news, and shopping are just a few of the things that are rising in popularity on the internet. By the time your eight-year-old is an adult, the internet will be the main venue for nearly all, if not all, of our transactions and activities.

If your child is struggling to read, he or she is going to be at a significant disadvantage. Even without the internet, being able to read adequately is absolutely essential to navigate through life.

The statistics on literacy in America continues to be staggeringly depressing compared to many other countries. In a country that purports education as one of its number one priorities, the U.S. continues to be behind other developed countries. U.S. adults ranked 12th among 20 high-income countries in composite (document, prose, and quantitative) literacy.

Even with all the educational mandates the federal government has issued to regulate and improve education, the figures remain deficient. There are arguments that the mandates designated to benefit the educational process are actually hindering them.

"In a class of 20 students, few if any teachers can find even 5 minutes of time in a day to devote to reading with each student." - The Nation's Report Card: Fourth-Grade Reading 2000, April 2001, The National Center for Education Statistics

Teachers and administrators have stated that trying to prepare their students for all the testing leaves with them little time to reach the children individually. The pressure of strict classroom parameters and tests overrides taking time to coach individual children successfully.

The tests themselves help determine what federal funds are going to available to the school placing additional pressure on administration to ensure that their teachers are toeing the line. These tests are based on group scores as a whole rather than individual score.

This all boils down to the child who is being left behind by the system, which is one out of every four children. One would hope that each student would develop reading proficiency at school. But, the schools can do only so much with what is demanded of them.

Literacy has to become a problem that parents are going to have to solve for their own children. Many teachers and administrators have decided to give their time outside the school setting to help the struggling student. But, it is ultimately up to the parent.

"According to the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 37 percent of fourth graders and 26 percent of eighth graders cannot read at the basic level; and on the 2002 NAEP 26 percent of twelfth graders cannot read at the basic level. That is, when reading grade appropriate text these students cannot extract the general meaning, make obvious connections between the text and their own experiences, or make simple inferences from the text. In other words, they cannot understand what they have read." - National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

Where to Start - Reading is Fundamental

"Students who reported having all four types of reading materials (books, magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias) in their home scored, on average, higher than those who reporter having fewer reading materials." - The Nation's Report Card: Fourth-Grade Reading 2000, April 2001, The National Center for Education Statistics

If your child is struggling to read, your main concern should be why he or she is having difficulty and how to help.

The whys are numerous. It could be a learning disability, such as dyslexia. It could merely be that language is just not easy from them to grasp. Language is made up of symbols, just as math is made up of symbols. Comprehension can come in many different ways. No one way of teaching is better than another, as long as your child learns, understands, and it lasts.

"15 percent of the population has specific reading disorders. Of these 15 percent as many as 1/3 may show change in the brain structure." - Albert M. Galaburda, M.D., Beth Israel Hospital, Harvard Medical School.

One main element for help to a child's reading is how much you, as a parent, read. The more you read, the more your child will read. In other words, you must lead by example. Another way to help is to supplement your child's reading education with a fundamental or adaptive reading program.

If you are one of the many Americans that read poorly, you can benefit from the same programs that are designed for your child. Not only will you both learn to read and understand what you're reading better; you will strengthen the relationship you have with your child.

"50 percent of American adults are unable to read an eighth grade level book." - Jonathan Kozol, Illiterate America

Finding a fundamental and/or adaptive reading program is actually very easy. There are numerous groups that are dedicated to increasing literacy and programs that work. The main goal for you is to find a program that fits your child.

A good fundamental reading program should address letters and sounds (known as phonics) to facilitate word recognition and use that knowledge to convert words into comprehension.

Television, video games, movies, and the pull of peers, all vie for your child's attention. These distractions can be used to help or hinder you child's progress. Recognizing the entertainment value of these venues, many programs have incorporated these elements into their programs.

By actively engaging them in not only distinguishing sounds and letters of the English language, but understanding what they've read, they will gladly enter the reading world with interest and gusto.

A fundamental reading program should give the student the skills necessary to expand on the basics so their cognition continues to expand and complement their lives as they progress through school and into adulthood.

"Children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are 3 - 4 times more likely to drop out in later years." - National Adult Literacy Survey, (1002) NCES, U.S. Department of Education

Reading is Essential for a Successful Life

"60 percent of America's prison inmates are illiterate and 85% of all juvenile offenders have reading problems." - U.S. Department of Education

There are dozens of frightening and dismal statistics for those students who don’t' learn to read. Quite simply, illiteracy produces high dropout rates from high school, behavior problems, high pregnancy rates, high truancy rates, high criminal rates, and a life destined for low incomes.

Almost 50 percent of unemployed youth, ages 16-21, are functionally illiterate and have virtually no prospects of obtaining good jobs. Over 20 percent of adults read at or below a fifth-grade level - far below the level needed to earn a living wage.

"21 million Americans can't read at all, 45 million are marginally illiterate and one-fifth of high school graduates can't read their diplomas." Department of Justice, 1993

The gaps between the literate and illiterate will continue to separate higher and lower incomes. As we move forward with technological marvels and demands, this division will become more pronounced. Those who cannot utilize the internet and other forms of technology because they are unable to read, will potentially be living on the fringes of society.

"In 1999, only 53 percent of children aged 3 to 5 were read to daily by a family member. Children in families with incomes below the poverty line are less likely to be read aloud to everyday than are children in families with incomes at or above the poverty line." - The National Center for Education Statistics, NCES Fast Facts, Family Reading

Clearly, reading is handed down by parents. If you, as a parent, take the steps necessary to ensure your child is literate, then your child will have dramatically improved his or her potential for success and a better life.

Don’t allow your child or children to continue struggling. Without the ability to read and comprehend, a child's future is severely limited. Whether you've tried other venues or not, find a fundamental reading program that will take your student to a level you didn't think possible.

That program should be able to engrain the basics of letters and sounds (phonics). It should take those basics and expand them into understanding and absorption. It should entertain enough to inspire an appetite for reading and learning. Finally, it should be able to carry your child into the future.

"Over 50% of NASA employees are dyslexic. They are deliberately sought after because they have superb problem solving skills and excellent 3D and spatial awareness." - Mary-Margaret Scholtens, director of the Alternative Programs Providing Learning Experiences Group, Copyright ? 2005, Jonesboro Sun


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