Imagine attending a conference with your child’s teacher and learning that your child is illiterate. A person who is illiterate is a person who cannot read. My guess is that you would leave in a panic, determined to pull out all the stops and make sure that your child became a literate person in the very near future. Illiteracy is a curse. No one wants their child to go through life unable to read. We all know that many doors are closed to those who are illiterate. No only are they unable to read and understanding basic information and often unable to secure decent employment, they are also unable to enjoy the rewards of a good book, the challenge of thinking critically about an important article, the joy of conversing with others about text.Undoubtedly, illiteracy is a difficult fate.
However, it is commonplace (and almost acceptable) to hear parents or teachers complain, “I just can’t get that kid to read” or “Johnny just doesn’t like to read.” Often these statements are punctuated with a little chuckle of resignation. Unless there’s a specific plan to intervene, life goes on and Johnny continues to avoid reading while those who could make a difference look the other way. A person who can read but chooses not to read is aliterate. Although the word aliterate is seldom used in conversation, be very clear that when we talk about a student who chooses not to read, we are talking about a student that is aliterate.
Illiteracy is a dirty word but aliteracy is a word that is glossed over, swept under the rug, and too often not addressed in our society. Interest in reading often starts to wane the older a child becomes. In the primary grades, most kids are excited and proud to read. They eagerly choose a variety of books and happily read and learn. Sometime around the end of third grade, that interest can begin to wane. Sports, video and online games, increased homework, projects and social activities begin to eat up their time. Reading is no longer a priority and before long, an interest and enjoyment of reading falls by the wayside. Consider these statistics from a study conducted by Common Sense Media 2014 which appeared in Time Magazine in May of 2014: http://time.com/94794/common-sense-media-reading-report-never-read/
- In 1984, 8% of 13-year-olds and 9% of 17-year-olds said they “never” or “hardly ever” read for pleasure. In 2014, that number had almost tripled, to 22% and 27%.
- 53% of 9-year-olds read for fun every day, but only 19% of 17-year-olds do
- 45% of 17-year-olds say they only read once or twice a year, but in 1984, 64% said they read once a week or more.
Research has repeatedly recognized the decline in reading as kids get older, but it appears that the amount of that decline is increasing. In other words, more young people are becoming aliterate, choosing not to read even though they can read.
Like any other problem, facing up to it is the first step. If your child has an aversion to reading, now is time to find a solution. Allowed to continue, the results can be almost as devastating as illiteracy. Chime in with your insights, concerns, and ideas. Check back on Monday when we’ll look at some solutions to the problem of aliteracy.
Twilight Comes Twice by Ralph Fletcher Today is the first day of autumn. The colors and beauty of fall reminded me of this awesome picture book/poem. Ralph Fletcher presents a potpourri of unique images as he describes both daybreak and twilight. This book has no age limit…everyone who appreciates figurative language, rich description, and well-crafted visual images will enjoy it.