The Community-Perfecting Power of Literacy
August 21, 2012
Our Summer Reading Program ended July 31st, and it’s been such a treat to be part of the cheering section for the young readers who have participated. The SRP is just one of MCPL’s efforts to facilitate literacy in our community. We can all see the value of encouraging our youth to read, but studies indicate that it may be even more important for their parents to read regularly.
The National Coalition for Literacy cites a recent study that concludes, "A mother’s reading skill is the greatest determinant of her children’s future academic success, outweighing other factors, such as neighborhood and family income." I appreciate the use of the word "skill" in the previous quote, because becoming a good reader doesn’t happen effortlessly for most of us. As each of my children learned to read, the process was the same for each of them. The more time they spent reading, the quicker they could read, which led them to enjoy reading more, which led them to read more….until finally, reading was as easy as breathing. Effortless! I believe that the vast majority of us could have been excellent readers because research into literacy outcomes shows a consistent result—practice makes perfect. Cutting edge research in neuroscience confirms that traditional wisdom, because we now know that the repetition of any action makes the neuro-pathways involved in executing that task "slicker" until that action is nearly instinctive. It’s like greasing the highway, so to speak.
Unfortunately, so many youth get left behind in the process when they don’t pick it up as quickly as their peers, and often believe that they are in some way deficient. They rarely view reading as a "skill" and come to regard it as a lack of intelligence that seems to brand them for life as “dumb.” So, we absolutely want to reach as many children as we can with our literacy outreach programs. At the same time, adults in the community need to be modeling reading as a key to success by spending time reading themselves. Here are a few more reasons to prove that it matters:
- "In the U.S., 63 million adults over age 16—29 percent of the country’s adult population— don’t read well enough to understand a newspaper story written at the eighth grade level. An additional 30 million—14 percent of the country’s adult population—can only read at a fifth grade level or lower."
(Impact of Literacy—proliteracy.org (Basic Facts About Literacy)
- "More than three out of four of those on welfare, 85% of unwed mothers, and 68% of those arrested are illiterate. Eighty-five percent of all juvenile offenders have reading problems."
- "Adults at the lowest level of literacy are almost ten times more likely to be living below the poverty line."
- "Among adults with strong literacy skills, only 4% live in poverty."
(Promisingpages.com, from The State of Literacy in America)
- "Between 31% and 41% of prisoners read at the lowest level of literacy."
- "Two-thirds of the students who cannot read proficiently by the end of 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare." (National Center for Education Statistics)
Whoever would like to contribute to the future progress of the rising generation can do so simply by modeling the value of reading. If you aren’t already participating in our 6 in 12 challenge, there’s still time to sign up. If you have children, the MCPL's family reading program will begin in January, so set the example to begin a good transition into a new discipline for your whole family. I highly recommend reading Ben Carson’s book Gifted Hands, and then watching the movie together afterwards. His life is a profound illustration that reading is the key to success--for all of us!
North Independence Branch