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Literacy rates are declining.

Literacy is an important aspect of every person’s life. It is the foundation for a strong, solid education and an important factor in the contributions an individual may make to society.

If a person is illiterate, they have less of a chance of being successful in life, and finding work; however, the issue of literacy is widely ignored, particularly in lower income and racially diverse neighborhoods where funds and resources are scarce.

Let’s explore what literacy is, the literary crisis in America, and ways in which we can improve literacy rates.

What is Literacy?

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), literacy is the “ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum, of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society.”

There is much debate over the definition of literacy. It is a term with a long history, and once was used to refer to those who could read and understand literature, or those who were well-educated.

Since, it has expanded to refer to those with the ability to read and write – and those who can read and write better are considered more literate.

Depending on the research and the scholar, you will find many other definitions, as broad and dynamic as humankind.

One thing scholars and teachers do agree are that literacy can set up students for failure or success. There is a direct correlation between students who can read and comprehend texts well, and those who cannot.

While many institutions put a heavy weight on the importance of math and science, students need to be able to read and understand numbers to understand these texts – that’s literacy. It isn’t solely being able to read letters, but being able to read and understand words and figures, and comprehend them.

It goes much deeper than that as well. Literacy is about access and choice. If students don’t have access or the choice to read, they won’t be able to. Choice and access are the foundations of success.

Looking at the definition of literacy, some individuals fall inside the category of literate, and many who, unfortunately, do not fall into this category. In fact, the United States – a first-world nation – struggles with many literacy issues today.

Literacy Issues in the U.S.

There is a literacy crisis in the U.S. that affects mostly children from racial and lower income backgrounds. But it doesn’t only affect children.

There are approximately 93 million adults that read at or below the basic level to contribute successful to society, according to Reading is Fundamental.

To show how much of an impact literacy has on a child’s life, consider this: by the age of 3, children from wealthy families know 30 million more words than children from poorer families.

Looking at this further, when children enter kindergarten, 34% don’t have the necessary language skills needed to read in the classroom.

Children entering kindergarten are expected to have some reading and writing comprehension. Those who do not are already behind and many times teachers may not have the time, resources, or understanding of how to help these children learn the skills their classmates already have.

According to the non-profit, Reading is Fundamental, “America’s literacy crisis has reached epidemic proportions, with millions of children and adults affected each and every year by a never-ending cycle of educational disadvantages.”

Today, standardized tests are a critical part of your child’s curriculum, and to do well on these tests, students must be able to read and write well – literacy is of the utmost importance. Without it, they’re doomed to fail.

Learning is incredibly important, and not just in the classroom. It has an impact on their life long after they’ve left the classroom.

Students who have a solid education and strong literacy rate are more likely to stay in school, graduate high school, and pursue higher education to become successful adults.

Conclusion

Overall, America has been facing a literacy crisis for many years, and it disproportionately affects lower income and racially diverse communities.

It’s important to recognize this issue and seek to improve literacy as teachers, tutors, and parents.

Some students may hate reading because it’s difficult and a long process. It’s important to tackle the root of the problem by providing students and children with the materials they need to succeed.

Literacy is success. Without literacy, individuals can never reach their full potential, and are less likely to be successful, happy members of society. In addition, their literacy issues will pass on to their children, continuing the never-ending and troubling cycle.

It is the responsibility of the literate to help those in need. With higher literacy rates, more members of society can contribute their skills, value, and knowledge. They can hold meaningful positions in society, go on to attend college and beyond, and pass their education onto other members of their family.

Literacy is an important issue in American society – and the rest of the world. The more literate members there are in society, the more value and potential they can contribute.

We teach, and encourage a love of learning, collaboration, and compassion. Everyone a learner everyday.

How to Improve Literacy

Many different factors come into play when considering how to improve literacy rates in the U.S. It isn’t the responsibility of just one party, but many parties.

The government should increase the budget for education expenses, particularly for lower income and highly populated neighborhoods where people of color live.

These communities are most affected by education budgets cuts. Children in lower-income neighborhoods don’t and may never have aces to the resources middle –class and upper-class students do.

But it is also up to parents to teach their children from a young age how to read. However, this is easier said than done. For lower income families, parents may spend most of their time at work, instead of spending time with their families. Plus, they may be illiterate as well.

Lower-income families often cannot afford the type of childcare that focus on nurturing their children’s minds; instead, they may only be able to afford to pay a friend or stranger to watch their child, and that babysitter’s responsibilities do not include story or instructional time.

The first step to improving literacy is acknowledging it. From there, we can take steps to help improve it. We cannot put the blame on students or adults for their lack of literacy. Instead, we should look at the cause of their illiteracy and how we can decrease that lack of learning environment in the future.

Tutoring is one such option because it allows students to have one-on-one time with a tutor who creates a customized plan to focus where they need attention most. For instance, a tutor can create sessions focusing around improving vocabulary, reading, and writing.

Tutoring aids in academic success. Academic achievement is one of the key reasons students drop out of high school. That lack of success begins at a young age when they aren’t provided with the tools or resources needed for success – literacy.

For every individual who drops out of high school, they lessen their ability to become successful members of society and earn high paying jobs – a recurring experience for many families.

On average, 8,000 students quit high school every year and earn nearly $18,000 less annually than college graduates. That’s a huge gap in income that can add up to exponential numbers.

Another option is reading challenges. They are an attractive solution to help improve literacy, especially in Australia. More than 95% of private, religious, and public institutions use this method.

A reading challenge helps encourage students to read more often, thus increasing their reading level and comprehension. It’s easy to implement at home, in classrooms, and with tutors.

Encouraging reading naturally is another successful solution. In 2012, it was argued literacy can be developed naturally like spoken language if children always have access to printed materials from a young age. The more access they have, the more likely they’ll read, and improve their literacy.

Directed listening and thinking activities (DLTA) are also a possible solution to increase reading comprehension among students in the classroom. This can be done at home as well.

DLTA, developed by Stauffer in 1980, is a strategy to help students who cannot successfully read independently. Teachers may use this strategy to give reading a purpose with their students; it helps students engage with the reading materials they cannot understand on their own.

Teachers provide information to students on what aspects of the story to pay attention to, and as students listen to their teacher, they identify the important details previously provided.

After the story, students have a discussion with the teacher about the text. Using this strategy allows students to recall information and organize it, strengthening their reading comprehension to become strong, independent readers.

Encouraging students to use public and school libraries is also an important step toward improving literacy.

One of the biggest issues teachers, tutors, and parents may have is motivating students to read. Children may dislike reading for many reasons.

To encourage reading, let a child choose what’s read. You can read to them, read aloud together, discuss what’s being read, and show that you enjoy reading, according to Reading is Fundamental, a non-profit organization that strives to promote literacy and reading.

It’s important to have books and other reading materials on hand so your students or child can access them.

Reading can be a slow and painful process for some students. It’s important to give them choices. You can’t expect them to like every story you choose. Put the power in their hands – put them in charge.

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Conclusion

Overall, America has been facing a literacy crisis for many years, and it disproportionately affects lower income and racially diverse communities.

It’s important to recognize this issue and seek to improve literacy as teachers, tutors, and parents.

Some students may hate reading because it’s difficult and a long process. It’s important to tackle the root of the problem by providing students and children with the materials they need to succeed.

Literacy is success. Without literacy, individuals can never reach their full potential, and are less likely to be successful, happy members of society. In addition, their literacy issues will pass on to their children, continuing the never-ending and troubling cycle.

It is the responsibility of the literate to help those in need. With higher literacy rates, more members of society can contribute their skills, value, and knowledge. They can hold meaningful positions in society, go on to attend college and beyond, and pass their education onto other members of their family.

Literacy is an important issue in American society – and the rest of the world. The more literate members there are in society, the more value and potential they can contribute.

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