Today is International Literacy day. Guess that one doesn’t make the calendar. But it is a pretty big deal, because literacy rates are frighteningly low across the US and especially here in the CLE that I love. 14 % of US adults can’t read, that’s 32 million people according to the Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy. In our part of Northeast Ohio, 44% of adults can’t read well enough to advance in the job market. And the Plain Dealer says hundreds of 3rd graders may not progress to the next grade because of their reading skills.
Doesn’t that scare you? If people struggle in this basic skill it holds them back not only in school but all through life. Research shows if a child can’t read by 3rd grade they are more likely to be a high school drop out. And that doesn’t just affect the person who can’t read it, compromises the entire economic development of a region. It doesn’t matter how many jobs are out there if the workforce doesn’t have the skills necessary to do the job.
I don’t believe policymakers go far enough in school readiness. We don’t need more tests. We need parents to understand the day their child is born how critical reading to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers is for school. Knowing the ABC’s and 1,2,3′s isn’t enough. Kids need to hear words, songs, and stories from day 1. They need to be read to and more important they need to see their parents reading. And if the parents are unable to read, everyone needs to stand behind them and get them the help they need. Because the success of their whole family depends on it.
Something else we need to do is change the culture where parents don’t read themselves. I have a lot of conversations with parents that go something like this.
Person: Oh I wish I had time to read! By the time the kids are in bed I’m too tired.
Me: So read when they are awake.
Person (Condescending laugh): Haha, right like they would let me read. How do you get so much reading time in?
Me: I read when the kids are playing.
And that is where I lose them. Parents believe it is their duty to entertain their children constantly. What would it hurt if while they played in the backyard, you swung on the hammock and read? Or when they all get home from school and everyone’s exhausted, pick up your own book and read while they have snack or decompress.
The fact is kids mimic everything we do. They say what we say, copy our actions, good or bad, and act like us. Shouldn’t they want to read like us? Reading may not be your thing, and I get that, but don’t you want it to be your kids’s thing? All the sacrifices we make during dinner, or screen time, or your own sanity, doesn’t it make sense to do the same when it comes to reading? Why is reading always classified as the one thing a family doesn’t have time for?
Or something only the kids have to do?
If you want to raise readers, you don’t only need to read to them, it is your job to allow them to catch you reading. By osmosis they will understand how important reading is in life. It isn’t just something they have to do for school.
Egads, the might learn that reading is something enjoyable.
Reading isn’t just for kids, it is for the whole family. So cancel plans after dinner, sit down with a book and ignore your kids for a while.
It will do them a lot of good in the long run.
Celebrate International Literacy Day with a selfie. Participate by tagging your picture #literacyselfie and if you are in the CLE also tag #cleliteracy
But equally as important? This:
Do you feel guilty taking the time to read?