Monday, February 1, 2010

Reading and Writing

I think that one of the best things I ever did as a mom was to teach each of my children to read at a young age. Now, don’t get me wrong: they weren’t little one- or two-year-old phenoms running around reading encyclopedias at one or two years old. But by Kindergarten, they’d passed basic phonics and sight words and were on to simple sentences. And, as I’ve mentioned in a blog before, they all love to read. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

So, it’s only fitting that I’d be just as disturbed by the rampant illiteracy plaguing our communities. (Visit this site for a few interesting statistics: Interesting literacy statistics)

A few years ago, the nonprofit I was working with (you know, the day job), started an early childhood initiative. It was in those early strategic meetings that I learned stats like children who are behind in school at third grade almost never catch up. That in our modern cutting-edge-obsessed culture, there are those who can’t complete a job application – in store or online – because they’re rudimentary reading skills are too poor.

And, let’s face it. I don’t care how kids shorthand text messages or bastardize the words on their social networking pages. They need to know how to spell those words “for real” if they expect to survive in tomorrow’s brave new world. Apparently they disagree, though. My son showed me one of his Facebook friends’ latest fan page, something to the effect of, “I hate it when you text to somebody old and they make you spell out the whole word.”


Reading has to be more than an “I told you so” or “Because it’s good for you” admonition on our part. As grownups, specifically writers, I think we owe it to those who can’t (or simply won’t) read, to educate and inspire. From a purely selfish perspective, we may be fueling our own fan base at some point.

So, the moral of my blog is a suggestion at best. Latch on to a kid and teach him/her to read. Prepare them for a life filled with word problems, subtitles and great novels. Or find an adult who feels utterly lost, but with enough conviction to know that they need to do better. Support their steps by getting them past the reading levels they’ve yet to conquer.

Detroit Public Schools has launched a reading initiative inviting community members to mentor students. There are myriad literacy organizations desperate for eager volunteers to spend a few hours of week doing what they love – reading, and letting someone else in on the fun. Or find a way to help improve the issue through a method of your own – blogging, hosting an event, lobbying your elected officials, etc.

Here are a couple of starting links. For more, head to your favorite search engine and try words like literacy, tutor, volunteer followed by your city. The people you help will remember you (even if you’re a fuzzy subconscious blur), but more importantly – despite the hurdles you might have to surmount – you’ll feel fuzzy, too. Warm and fuzzy.


Romance Writers of America and Literacy

Volunteer Match

National Literacy Coalition

All About Adolescent Literacy

Children’s activities for International Literacy Day (Sept. 8, 2010) from Crayola

International Reading Association


Jewel Amethyst said...

Just as important as learning to read is to have the desire and passion for reading. Do you know many adults though educated with higher degrees do not read for pleasure? Not only that, but people read less and less as they grow older.

Kids do take their cues from adults. So in addition to teaching kids to read early, we need to instill in them the love of reading (it is not automatic) and we adults need to be examples and read for our own pleasure as well.

Maybe we need to see the Obamas toting a paperback or two as they step unto Airforce 1 (lol).

Stefanie Worth said...

Jewel -- You're so right. One of the things I did with my kids was to let them read what they want. I figured they get enough "must" reads from school.

When we go to the bookstore, I love to see them roam the aisles for a cover or title that catches their eye. This way, I could see what their tastes were and encourage them that way.

It's funny, but after two boys who love fantasy books, my youngest loves that genre, too, but brings home a heap of how-to books from the school library as well. Who knew?