By Rich Long, Ed.D.
Equity is not an abstract idea when one is talking about whether or not your own child can read. Learning to read is one of the fundamental tools that will determine whether or not your child and all of our children are successful. This is clear to anyone who has noticed that we have moved from a muscle-based factory and farming society to an information society that now drives new manufacturing and sophisticated farming. To bridge the divide between those who can and cannot read, we need to become a culture that values reading.
For our SEEDS* children, becoming a culture of readers is critical. If we don’t value reading, we will not invest in teachers who have the in-depth knowledge of the reading process to teach with the specialized techniques that make a difference. These well educated and supported teachers then need the time and materials to teach the struggling readers. Good teaching isn’t enough though. Struggling readers need to believe that reading is something that they, too, should invest in.
A division in our nation bars equal access
This will not happen automatically. We need to marshal our efforts effectively. To help do so, Literate Nation and others are developing a campaign that we hope will result in a major shift in our culture. This is all part of My Brother’s Keeper, started by President Obama to make a difference in the lives of boys and young men of color. As the data clearly demonstrates, a division in our nation keeps us from reaching everyone. While many schools have teachers who are well educated and supported in their efforts to teach reading, far too many children are not getting what they need to become readers—they don’t have access to good teaching, books in their classrooms, libraries in their schools or communities. We have to do more.
We are not starting from zero; many communities have been creating local efforts to build their communities by supporting reading. One example is the Read-to-Them organization, which has impacted over 800 schools by helping everyone in a school read the same book and then talk about it. Rotary Clubs across the nation and world have been promoting reading by handing out books at their clubs, working with schools to promote reading, and handing out dictionaries to third graders. Another example is the summer reading programs in libraries across the nation. But these and other programs aren’t enough.
We all must invest in reading
What I am talking about is developing an outreach campaign that will make use of our networks of teachers, parents, administrators, advocates, civil rights leaders, and community leaders who will work with the media and with local and national leaders in government, sports, media, and academics to refocus us on reading as an activity that is done for knowledge and growth.
The campaign’s objective is to encourage the value of reading by helping government leaders see that reading is so important, they must invest in it. We will need media to show people reading on sit-coms (instead of watching TV) or playing video games, for sports announcers to talk about sports books, for business and community leaders to not simply to ask about the reading scores of schools (which is only the average) but to ask about what is being read and to talk about it.
But we are going to need your help, too. IF you have ideas on how we should become a nation that reflects a “culture of reading” please email me at: President@literatenation.org and give us your ideas, comments and suggestions. These will be shared with the organizations working to create this new culture.
This is an opportunity for us to make a difference for all our vulnerable SEEDS* children.
* SEEDS: Struggling readers, Economically disadvantaged, English language learners, and students with Dyslexia, Specific learning disabilities, and language impairment.
Richard Long, Ed.D., is President of Literate Nation, and former Director of Government Relations for the International Reading Association. He is former Executive Director of the US Coalition for Education for All and former Executive Director of the National Title I Association. He has authored numerous articles, chapters, and books on literacy-related topics and is a contributing writer for LRP publications. Dr. Long also is an instructor at Mississippi State University.
Follow Dr. Long on Twitter: @rlongliteracy.
Join Literate Nation/subscribe to Catalyst at: http://literatenation.org
Copyright © 2014 Literate Nation. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction and distribution permitted with attribution. Click here to learn more about Literate Nation Republishing Guidelines.