Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Why Adult Literacy Matters To Us All

We talk about literacy a lot in the book blogosphere especially as it pertains to children. There's an entire dedicated group of bloggers, frequently referred to as the kidlitosphere, that is especially committed to spreading the word about literacy issues for children. I am so grateful for their tireless efforts and I think they are doing a phenomenal job.

But I think something we don't talk about as much is adult literacy. I feel a bit to blame for this, actually, since I've worked in adult literacy for four years now. Before I worked with adults who struggle with their reading skills, I never really thought about being an adult and not being able to read. Not only not being able to read, but not being able to read well. And I can only imagine that there are many others who don't think about this either.

But the truth is that there are many adult who have low to no reading skills. And this matters. It impacts us all and it impacts our children. So while I really really believe in preventative measures against illiteracy with children, I also believe that it's never too late for anyone. Adults can still to learn to read and it can change their lives.

Why does adult literacy matter to children's literacy?

*Because adults are parents who will or will not read aloud to their young children.
*Because adults are parents who will decide how important books and reading are in a household.
*Because adults are parents who will help their children with their homework.
*Because adults are people who can demonstrate that reading is to be enjoyed and books are to be loved.

I bring this up now, because I read about a new initiative by Christian fiction author Melanie Wells called I Told Two Friends. Basically, they are encouraging you to buy two copies of her book, My Soul to Keep (which is a great creepy read) and give them to two friends and tell them about the campaign. The idea is that they'll do the same. 100% of the author's profits from the books will go to the group Pro Literacy. Is this the best way to raise money for the cause of adult literacy? I don't know, but I admire that she's doing something!

Here's the official blurb from the site:

I Told Two Friends is an online campaign led by Dallas author, Melanie Wells, to rally book lovers to help fight adult illiteracy. Readers are invited to join our effort to raise $100,000 for the cause by purchasing Melanie Wells’ novel, My Soul To Keep, and encouraging two friends do the same. 100% of the author’s profits will go to ProLiteracy, an international non-profit whose mission is to end adult illiteracy worldwide.

Tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and so on and so on … and help thousands of eager adults learn to read this sentence. Be part of the solution!

Go check out the I Told Two Friends website...and get involved! If you don't participate in this particular campaign just remember that adult literacy is an issue for all of us...and not just because of our children. But because everyone deserves the chance to one day read a novel and fall in love with it.

I feel inspired by an author trying to raise her voice about this...I hope you will doubly enjoy the blessing it was to be able to read this blog post today. :)



Sandy Nawrot said...

It is hard to imagine not being able to read the way we all do...the frustration, the impact on our children. You have such a big heart, and admire you for taking on this cause! You are an inspiration Amy!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I think one of the barriers is that it can be embarrassing to say you're an adult and can't read. In bilingual Tucson, adult literacy programs are a little more successful because at least you can say you can't read in the other language. But it's definitely hard on the adults either way. It's wonderful that you are highlighting this issue.

Jen - Devourer of Books said...

As a former teacher in a really low-income area, I can definitely attest that the education level of parents, as well as how much importance they place on education is huge in the educational success of kids. Thanks for bringing this up, Amy!

bermudaonion said...

I worked in adult literacy for a little while and it is heartbreaking. Whenever I got a new student, I tested them to see what level they were on, so I'd know what materials to use with them. One of my students came from the local women's shelter and was so ashamed that she couldn't read at all that she started crying. I took her to the bathroom to wash her face and we both sobbed in there for at least half an hour. As you can see, I wasn't very good at keeping my emotions separate from the job. Not being able to read keeps people unemployed or underemployed - it is a huge problem and I applaud people like you who make a difference!

Nicole said...

Great post Amy. Thanks for mentioning this important subject. I do think about/have thought about it before, but it definitely bears keeping in mind.

Michelle said...

Interesting topic. I have one of those parents who doesn't read well (he knows how to read but it's much harder for him than most people). My dad was actually in an adult literacy course at the same time I was learning to read. In spite of this, or maybe because of this, he instilled in me a love for reading and made sure that I was light years ahead of my classmates when I started school. While it's been tough for him and he continues to struggle with it, he made sure that I never had the same problem. So in some ways, he was actually a better parent because of his poor reading skills.

Nymeth said...

Excellent post, Amy! I second Jill's comment about the shame associated with it. I really admire the work that you do!

Rebecca Reid said...

I think you bring up great points! You're right: I mostly think of literacy as for children. But how will the children get literate if the parents aren't!? *Going to check out the website*

Pam said...

thanks for this, amy! Being in the bookblog ring, I think my praise will probably just be enjoyed by the choir but it really is SOOOOO important to talk about reading with adult who may (or may not but especially those who may) become parents.

I like the point about how important reading becomes to children (and thus adults as they grow up) being based on how excited the parents are about reading and books. I teach at a preschool where most of the parents are doctors, lawyers, and engineers. It is amazing to see people who went through 8-10 years of college not get (on their own) the connection between reading to babies/kids and higher education later in life.

Thanks for this post! It really is so important!

Rebecca :) said...

Thanks for bringing up this important topic, Amy! It is very embarrassing for adults who cannot read to admit to it and ask for help. It seems everyone can read these days so to admit you can't is a huge deal. If someone does admit it to you the important thing is not to judge and to not offer help as the next thing you say. Give them time to get used to the idea that you're not judgmental. It helps them feel more secure and less like someone to be pitied.

Melanie Wells said...

Hi Amy. Thanks so much for highlighting the problem of adult literacy and for mentioning our "I Told Two Friends" campaign. It's heart-rending to think that there are so many adults (33 million!) in our country who have no or poor reading skills. And you're so right to focus on the effect this will have on their kids.
Thanks so much for mentioning our campaign to teach eager adults to read. And for working so hard on behalf of kids who are learning to read as well!

Peace to you!
- Melanie Wells

heidenkind said...

I know at least two people who can't read... or so I've heard. I've never asked them about it, because I thought it might be a touchy subject. But it's hard to imagine trying to get through life without it. =/

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Yes! I've taught children whose parents had little education themselves. The ways this affects children is tremendous.

No person, child or adult, should have to struggle with this basic skill.

Melissa - Shhh I'm Reading said...

My husband has severe dyslexia and because of this struggles with reading and spelling. I know that my kids will receive lots of book time from me, but I am hoping to find ways to get hubby involved with our kids and books too.

Ysabetwordsmith said...

For a while I was designing and grading coursework for a series of adult remedial education in a prison. Almost none of the students could read or write well. Impaired literacy makes it hard for people to participate in society, which pushes them toward the edges and makes criminal activity more likely. So boosting literacy can lower the crime rate.

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ReadingTub said...

Amy - I thought I left a comment the other day, but apparently it didn't get through! Thank you for this wonderful post. It really offers a great description of how the cycles of literacy and illiteracy work. Look for a link in the upcoming Literacy Roundup, too!

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