Reading scores are a huge predictor for planning America’s prison population. Because of the link between prisoners and literacy, the number of prisons built is based partly on reading test scores of American third and fourth graders. A low literacy level is the factor prison inmates have most in common. Learn to read or go to prison?
So much economic and human capital wasted!
Some years ago, I read Dr. Benjamin Bloom’s Developing Talent in Young People, a book that chronicles world famous, high achieving mathematicians, scientists, writers, musicians and athletes. I was stunned to discover the number of white males who recounted NOT fully learning to read/comprehend until fourth or fifth grade. Unfortunately, an African-American male who is not reading by that time has most likely been written off by family, school, and/or by society. (A prison bed is being planned for him.)
However, three factors saved the future achievers in Bloom’s study:
1) a mentor,
2) a hobby, and
3) strong family support that boosted their self-esteem until their reading skills developed.
All fruit DOES NOT ripen on the vine at once.
Technology: Holding Readers Back?
Some research suggests that a child’s brain continues to evolve for up to eight years after birth, weeding out neural connections that don’t get used. Early exposure to screens has been linked to diminished deductive reasoning and reduction of other cognitive skills. What are the implications for a generation of students whose brains are acclimated to a blur of videos, color, sounds, images, logos and therefore, find it difficult to concentrate on the printed words that represent the cognition of the textbooks, the workplace and an information-based economy? ) State-mandated exams, the ACT, and SAT employ a paper-driven format.
In addition, channel and Internet surfing provide little time for the reflection and concentration on ideas crucial to improving the reading process.
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, (NAEP) fifty-five per cent (55%) of the children of college-educated parents read BELOW proficiency levels by the time they reach 8th grade.
Reading Is a Social Act!
ALL Teachers Are Reading Teachers
Reading is a social act and cognitive process dependent on a number of skills: decoding, concentration, memory, reflection. The hallmark of an effective reader is to be able to decode AND to comprehend simultaneously. Comprehension is building bridges between the known and the unknown.
Recently as an educational conference, I sat at a table with a variety of educators. One young assistant principal insisted that social studies and science teachers didn’t want to be reading teachers. They merely wanted to teach their content. When I stated that ALL teachers are reading and writing teachers, he bristled. I added that ALL students need to be able to speak, read, and write knowledgeably about any subject they study. I further reminded him that most content areas have a specialized vocabulary that needs to be taught systematically.
I further lectured:
Literate people can use the communication system of a culture for their social and economic well being.
Literate people share in the fruits of the culture, society, community. They use literacy to solve problems in their daily lives. Being literate is how a society gives out its life chances; it is what gives people options.
In the collaborative learning community where students sit face-to-face and side-by-side and are interdependent, literacy is both a cognitive and a social act. Students read, write for and speak to an authentic audience. It is also the foundation for shared reading, project-based learning, problem seeking, critical thinking, argumentation and debate, and the writing process.
“The Foundation of every State is the Education of its Youth!” Diogenes
Next Blog Post: Some ideas on how to improve reading.