The shocking reality of illiteracy

>> Sunday, February 17, 2008

Yes, I've heard the statistics over and over again. I've heard how we're graduating high school seniors, and even college graduates who can't read beyond a third grade level, but I had never encountered it until today.

This afternoon I attended a baby shower for one of my voice students who is due to deliver in the next couple of weeks, and when it came time for her to read the cards that accompanied the gifts she received, she was so emotional that she asked some of the young women who were present to read them out loud for her. It was then that the reality of illiteracy came rushing in upon me. These young women, most of them in their early twenties, high school graduates, and some attending college, could not read the simplest lines in a greeting card out loud without laboring and stumbling over the most rudimentary of words such as "hugest" and "surrounded". Having been literally sequestered in an environment where literacy and education are utmost, and having a family that carries on a daily love affair with the written and spoken language, I was unprepared for this scene, and I confess that my shock was most likely scribbled all over my facial expressions. I was quite frankly, embarrassed and taken aback, and it only served to bring home to me what a widespread and tragic problem illiteracy has become amongst the youth of this nation. It frightens and disturbs me, and I confess that I am at a loss at what we should or even can do about such an obviously serious and widespread problem.

On my part, I have raised three children who love to read, and who are, all three, excellent writers. One of my three children, at the age of 19, now fluently reads, writes, and speaks both English and French, and has plans to pursue her college degrees in language. One of the greatest thrills I have had as the parent of teens is the joy of watching as they read and discover the world's great classic literature. It takes me back to the days when I first discovered the works of Shakespeare, the Oresteia, Plato, Mark Twain, Hemingway, and Elizabeth Barret Browning. Memories I will always hold dear is of a Saturday morning when Lauren and I sat downstairs over a cup of coffee and discussed Dickens, and of the times when Heather has come to me with her astounding creative writing endeavors and asked me to read them and offer my opinions. And it is always a thrill to know that if I come up short on ideas for birthday presents, I know that I can always buy a gift certificate from our local bookstore and it will be eagerly received. There is nothing more satisfying and exciting than parenting children who are eager to read and learn, and I fear for a generation of parents who, because they cannot read themselves, will never instill in their children the love of reading, and as a result, the love of learning.

I fear that we are on the threshold of yet another dark age if something does not change soon.


Lauren February 18, 2008 at 7:46 AM  

You'd be surprised how little one of your three kids reads. It's kinda sad, because I saw on his facebook under books "I don't read much". :( Ça me fait triste!

Lynette February 18, 2008 at 9:46 AM  

Well, he used to read quite a bit when he was younger. And I know that he CAN read and read well. I also know that he can write very well because he won an essay contest back in Junior High. So at least he has the ability even if he doesn't exercise it.


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