Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wiping Out Illiteracy - One Child At A Time

I've been thinking a lot lately about something author, Mem Fox, said in her book, Reading Magic (If you haven't read it, EVERYONE needs to). She says that, if everyone whose live touches a child read three books a day with them, we would wipe out illiteracy in a generation and a half. There's a lot in those simple words.

Certainly, just the volume of exposure of reading is important. But it goes deeper. Dr. Michael Pressley, a reading researcher, says if we do not give children mostly positive experiences with books, they will not choose to be readers. Not only must be get in the "quota", but the experiences must be rich and rewarding. How do we do that? By making sure that:

1) we turn off distractions and give 100% of ourselves to our children when we read with them. After all, we are the commercial for reading.

2) we read, at least some of the time, things they want to read.

What about those children that don't have someone to read with them at home? Those children are the ones that don't benefit from the literacy-rich environment many of you reading promote. Someone - a tutor, a neighbor, a teacher, a librarian - has to make sure that a team of supporters works with that child to get the minimum of 3 a day in. If you have a lot of players on the team, and you count engaging read alouds, it's possible.

Why all this focus on reading? Without reading in this information-rich society, we fall short. We cannot comprehend the complexities the modern world throws at us and make thoughtful decisions. An inspirational fellow I met several years ago in Walker Co., AL (learning to read at the age of 73) said to me, "When I was coming up, you could get by. I certainly did and ended up running a $100,000 a year trucking company with a lot of help. Kids today can't do that. You let me talk to any of them and I'll tell them how important reading is."

I'd like to challenge those of you following and visiting this post to do two things: first, read regularly with your own child. Make it a priority this year and beyond. Secondly, find a child you can read to, maybe not every single day but frequently and build a team of supporters around that child. It can be done! Feel free to post updates on your "experiment" here.