Thursday, November 29, 2007

Literacy Levels

I was reading an article today published by The Guardian in the UK. It's about the international literacy levels of children in the world today. The main point of the article was how much England had fallen in rankings. From 3rd last year to 19th this year. But what really stood out for me was the ranking of the US (since that's where I live!) The US ranks 18th. 18th! This is supposed to be a country where "no child is left behind".

Does is bother me that the US falls behind Russia (number 1), Bulgaria, and Latvia?? Hell, yes it bothers me! And not just because I am a "book person". It bothers me because I'm a mom. I want the best for my kids. And granted, their school ranks really high among state and national averages. But I want the best for ALL kids. To me, it seems that the gap between the "haves" and the "have nots" in this country is widening. There doesn't seem to be much of a middle class anymore. And failing schools seem to be one of the reasons.

The article states that in England the "bookless" households, tv, and computer/video games are at the heart of the problem. I definitely see this trend in the US. Our household alone has both a Playstation and an XBox. (and I'm afraid that the grandparents are getting the kids a Wii for Christmas as well). But I limit their playing. Nothing until homework is done, and usually nothing until the weekends. Video games are fun.....I love to play Guitar Hero myself. But there is a time and place for everything.

Of course in households that have 2 parents working, it's hard to monitor what the kids are doing all the time. And sometimes it's easier to just tell them to turn on the TV....I have things to do. We've all done it. But I think it's time to take a stand on this issue. We need our kids to read. We need them to learn. My kids weren't born with the proverbial silver spoon. I give them what I can. But a love of reading and education is my way to make sure they succeed in life. I want them to be able to do what they want when they get older. I want them to be happy with their lives.

So....is there really a point to this rant?? Probably. I think it's an important statistic, literacy levels. And I think something needs to be done to improve our stats in the international rankings. What can I do personally?? Make sure my kids can read. It's a little thing....but it's important. And judging from the book fair at the school 2 nights ago, I think our school agrees. How about you??

20 comments:

Chris said...

Ugh! Nova Scotia, Canada was 16th too. Not good. Alberta was 3rd? That is a wide gap in the same country. It's head scratching. We have a literacy program starting at birth, good libraries and I couldn't get near the bookstore today for all the people Christmas shopping. So what's the problem?

I agree with you. It's the technology that's making this happen. These are prosperous countries that have fallen so badly in a one or two years. It's bad! Rant on!

Stephanie said...

I know! I was wondering what the deal was with Cananda being so far apart across the provinces. Seems strange, doesn't it??

I just wish there was something I could DO about it!

Andi said...

Right on!!! Very nicely put.

Stephanie said...

Thanks Andi! As an educator, you must look at numbers like this and just shake your head. It really is an hot-button issue for me. And it's one that there are no easy answers.

Debi said...

It really is depressing to the point of tears, isn't it? My husband teaches at a community college (one that actually has admissions standards even), and it is thoroughly appalling what these kids (crap, am I old!) turn in for assignments. My daughter literally wrote better than many of them when she was in first grade.

But like you, I end saying, "What can I DO about it?"

Stephanie said...

Debi - It's horrible! Other than my small little corner of the world, I don't know what else to do. But I do know something needs to be done.

Nymeth said...

I think that you (and Debi, and others) are already making a difference by encouraging your children to read. I know that my parents are one of the reasons why I've always been an avid reader, and I'll be eternally grateful for that.

Stephanie said...

Thanks Nymeth! That is the nicest thing I've heard in a long time.

Nicola said...

I used to live in Alberta and I'm not surprised they are so high on the list. Parents have so much choice for eductation there. Homeschooling is very popular, charter schools are extrememly popular. There are alternative high schools, student lead high schools and the list goes on.

Kailana said...

Yeah, Nova Scotia at that spot does not surprise me, Chris. I went to university with people from Alberta and Ontario, and you could totally tell that they had learned more than we had. Alberta and Ontario are richer and have more money to put into their education, though... It is possible, though. Education needs to start at home.

Cath said...

There was quite a fuss made about the literacy levels here in the UK a few weeks ago. One in five children apparently leave school either unable to read or with severe reading difficulties. My eldest daughter helps with reading in her daughter's school and can bear this out. They also said many parents don't read to their kids any more and that doesn't help. The schools are bringing in a different method of teaching kids to read and they're hoping that will help. But the real emphasis was on how much parents and grandparents can help at home. My grand-daughter is seven and reads at about the level of a ten year old. She's not especially brilliant or anything, she just gets encouraged by all of us to read and love books. Our grandson is just one and we started with him when he was about three months. He already loves the pictures in his cardboard books. People don't realise, I think, that this is not rocket science. It's incredibly easy to instil a love of books in young children. Sorry to bang on so much but this is a subject dear to heart and I find the statistics just heart-breaking.

DesLily said...

It's a shame people don't read to their kids anymore, and then slowly turn it over to have the kid read to them.. I know it's hard but we are probably talking about 20-30 minutes at bedtime..makes no sense to me that it's stopped when it's a bonding time, as well as educational.

Over the summer, in fla. where my grandson lives, he had to read 2 books over summer break. One from a list of books from school and one of his own choice and have book reports written on both of them. I was thrilled when my 11 yr old grandson asked if he could read outloud to me!! (I got to hear about Davey Crockett!)

Sarah said...

I think there is a push these past 2 decades to reward kids for reading fast and fluffy books for rewards (accelerated reading programs) rather than helping kids learn to love reading. Someone else said this--education starts at home. If kids aren't getting a solid love for reading at home--if they aren't being introduced to the sounds of language--they will have a much harder time being literate adults. Literate adults who comprehend what they are reading, that is. Outcome-based education (or whatever it goes by these days) leaves many, many children behind.
SmallWorld

Dana said...

Hi steph, its dana from classics club. I love your blog. And i totally agree with you. It makes me really sad how many people I know don't read or at least read everyday. how's job hunting going for ya? your in my thoughts. nice blog.

Dewey said...

Well, first I have to say that literacy levels (in the U.S.) are vastly improved from what they used to be early in the last century. Measuring year-to-year probably doesn't give us the best information.

But I also agree that the gap between the haves and the have-nots is getting bigger. And I honestly believe that NCLB is purposely designed to keep widening it, in spite of its name.

Carl V. said...

"But I limit their playing. Nothing until homework is done, and usually nothing until the weekends."

What a hardass! ;)

This is just one of the many reasons why what we do...talk about books we love...makes such a difference. It is that personal connection that will get kids interested in reading, certainly...and unfortunately...not what they learn in school.

Trish said...

Oooh, I can't wait to read this article. I think that the overall consensus is that our education level is much lower than other countries (I have a lot of family in Canada and THEIR schooling is much more rigorous than ours).

I think that one of the things we can continue doing is talk about reading and help spread that to others. I am so thrilled that my sister has recently started reading and I've also noticed that my brother (age 11) is *trying* to make an effort...especially when he hears me and mom talk about reading all the time. I'm a reader because my parents were readers. If they hadn't been, it probably would not be such a huge interested. Now I just have to work on hubby. :) Ahhhh! Rant on is what I say!!!

valentina said...

I don't agree with who says that THE problem is Tv or videogames or internet. I've always had a tv, and a computer with video games and believe me I so so so loved Tv when I was a child. But I still managed to read, and a lot. And why? Because my parents where buying me books and encouraging me to read. And to paint, and to be creative in many different ways.
So if a child doesn't read, have a look at his/her house.Where are the books?probably nowhere.
It's not true 100% of the times, there's always the "black sheep" who grows up in a family of bookworms and can't even read a comic (there's one example in my family:P) but mostly it's the parents who are to blame or to praise. So go you Stephanie!

Virginie said...

Well France is 27th, but strangely I'm not really surprised. Unfortunately, in France culture is not a fundamental basis, especially nowadays with our new presidents, who for example decided that retired teachers won't be all replaced, but there'll be more recruitement in the police. Where are we going to, I ask.

MindFul MiMi said...

Along the same lines: have a look at the results of this year's PISA study:
http://www.pisa.oecd.org/document/2/0,3343,en_32252351_32236191_39718850_1_1_1_1,00.html