The statistics paint a very unpleasant picture of the literacy problem that the United States is facing. Those statistics are very consistent among the providers. The following appear consistently among most researchers on the subject of literacy in the schools.
· “Only one in ten fourth-graders at these schools can read at the proficient level, the ideal goal for all students” (U.S. Department of Education, 1999, p, 7).”
· 48% to 68% of fourth graders who are at the lowest literacy levels live in poverty.
· “The percentage of prisoners in the two lowest levels of reading proficiency is 70% (National Institute for Literacy, 1998).”
This clearly indicates that poor reading skills affect society as well as the individual.
What is the solution for this enormous problem? Is there anything that can be done to correct and or prevent the literacy problems that plague our education system?
“At risk children are in critical need of effective instruction in the early years in order to develop effective reading and writing skills”.
This instruction has to begin with the parents in the first five years of the child’s life. Too often children enter school without having the skills even to do the least of what is required of them. Early intervention is absolutely necessary. From the day the child is born the parents need to be teaching and interacting with their children constantly.
Parental involvement begins with the very simplest of tasks:
· Turn the TV off. The TV has become the babysitter in too many homes. To insure that your children get the benefits of every learning opportunity has to include a lot more time spent with the parents in all areas of home life.
· “Read together. Reading with your child is a great activity. It not only teaches your child that reading is important to you, but it also offers a chance to talk about the book, and often other issues will come up. Books can really open the lines of communication between parent and child.”
· Go to the library often. Take the child on a tour of the library. Let them pick out books they like. “Try finding library books about current issues or interests in your family’s or child’s life, and then reading them together.”
Once the child enters the educational system, many parents tend to drop out of their involvement in the education of their children. Our school systems should always have a plan in place that will involve the parents in the child’s educational process (K-12).
There are school programs designed to help students who are behind in their literacy skills. Many of these involve after school activities, pull-outs from class for extra teaching, and some schools offer evening classes for parents and students to attend. These programs can work great for those who take advantage of them. However there are other options available through the school system and outside of the system.
When students are falling far behind the rest it seems easy for parents to just give up, lose hope, or just get frustrated with not knowing what to do.
Possible resources are:
· The local library. There are often reading classes available for students, and they usually expect parental involvement at some level.
· ESL classes are available all over most cities. Many of the students who are falling behind are doing so because they have a language barrier. These classes involve reading and learning the second language. They also include socials and celebrations for people who have completed their programs.
· RIF: “Reading Is Fundamental” is a program that will help students learn and get motivated to read more often.
· Private Tutoring is available through the schools as well as by local friends, and community organizations. There are many teachers who are willing to offer tutoring for students after school.
· Literacy Directory: The resource for finding resources is the Internet. Use this tool to find local and national programs that provide helps for children in improving their literacy skills level.
· Reading Rockets
The resources are available. Schools have resources. Parents have resources. There is no excuse for this nation to have a literacy problem. Since we do, Teachers, parents, and the community need to all pull together, in order to make a way for one or more students to have a chance.
Because reading is in fact related to poverty, unemployment, and illegal activity resulting in imprisonment, we must take advantage of what we know to make life better for someone else. The schools cannot do it all, and the alternatives are available.