Moving Beyond Awareness of Literacy Issues

posted by Karen Hood
Thursday, July 2, 2009

by Hildra Tague
Source: Suite 101

It is time to face a painful reality – that many are growing up illiterate. There is much discussion of the problem. The next step is to do something about it.

Many talk shows dissect the illiteracy problem and brim with awareness. Watching such programs makes it obvious there is a need to move beyond awareness into doing something about society’s literacy needs. This can be done by getting past the grief to look for solutions, getting individuals motivated to make a difference, recognize that literacy is not defined by grades, and work to make a literate society.

Get Past the Grief to Look for Solutions to Illiteracy

Blaming and bemoaning has questionable value. It is time to do more than define the problem. There is a need to emphasize finding solutions. Criticisms probably had their place in bringing about awareness, and sharing mutual grief, but their value is beginning to wear thin.

When the only concept of the illiteracy problem is awareness there is a tendency for the issue to become stagnant by oversimplification. For the most part, it is not brought about by a lack of dedication but a lack of skills, situations, or experiences conducive to a particular person’s learning needs.

Motivate Individuals to Make a Difference for Literacy

Before a system can change, people must change. Many earth-shaking improvements in society were made by individuals (not ‘the system”) who had an idea and acted, rain or shine, long enough to make a difference.

It would be wise to let awareness be and move on to making a difference lest the next generation turns out even less literate. No doubt very few people want to fail–whether they be students, teachers, or parents. How fine it would be to seek success together with respectful teamwork.

Recognize that Literacy is not Defined by Grades

There are still students who “fall out of the net” of literacy and learning. Some of them are making passing or even better grades, yet something isn’t happening for them. There is a crucial point in a child’s life where an identity choice is made: to use what has been learned and continue learning, or to resist and steer toward a life of functional illiteracy.

For some people who do have access to education literacy, in the end, is defined by intention. There are far too many students who actually have skills, yet never read voluntarily on their own. Efforts are being made to help students connect their learning with their own lives. This enables them to become lifetime learners.

This doesn’t always mean someone is doing something wrong. It may mean that more is needed, or specialized focusing is needed to help them find the best way they learn. Given the causal relationships between literacy rates and poverty, caring citizens would be well-advised to do something to help.

Work to Make a Literate Society

Doing something about it sometimes lacks the excitement and thrilling appeal that the awareness activities put forth.

Yet, becoming literate is brought about by daily efforts, caring relationships, and specific skills applied over a consistent period of time. Sounds boring? At times. Sounds like work? Always. But the results are both possible and exhilarating!

Many schools work toward literacy goals by the intervention process which occurs before referral for special services. However, there is a serious challenge with children who don’t qualify for special help. Even “at risk” children could often use more help although the schools do work very hard with them.

The illiteracy problem can’t be solved by working only with adults in “after the fact” programs. It will require participation across the board, all ages and professions, and will be solved more quickly if we go beyond awareness into proactive measures.

It isn’t just the job of the schools and parents. Find a role in becoming part of the solution. Mentor a child who could use a bit of guidance and encouragement. Do what can be done to make learning fun and important for children in the neighborhood and family. After all, their literacy is truly the future.



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