A third of all the children in the United States graduate the 8th grade with below-basic reading skills. At this level of illiteracy, many of them are unprepared for the workplace or other factors of adult life. Dr. Mark Seidenberg, research professor in the department of psychology at University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of Language At The Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can’t, and What Can Be Done About It, explains that this problem arises from an improper understanding of how to teach reading, which itself comes from a disconnect between teachers and researchers.
While many teachers believe that every child must be uniquely tailored to, the research shows that there is still a level at which children converge when learning to read, specifically how and what they need to learn. Dr. Susan B. Neuman, professor of childhood and literacy development at New York University, says that when a child starts to understand that the letters they see in the written word correspond to the sounds they know from spoken word, they begin to learn how to read. This practice of teaching how to decode language is called phonics and has often been ignored in traditional teaching methods. On the other hand, too much reliance on phonics can also be harmful. Dr. Marie Ann Donovan, associate professor of teaching education at DePaul University, encourages a balanced literacy approach, which includes a phonics component but also focuses on reading comprehension- learning to identify words, know what they mean, and put them together into sentences.
Parents often think that simply reading to their children will teach them to read. Although reading with your child prepares the way and motivates them, it isn’t enough by itself. Dr. Seidenburg says that no matter how hard it is, we need to focus on getting kids prepared for the real world with adequate reading levels. What we can do right now is to ask questions about what our teachers are taught and believe about the process of learning to read. Bridging the gap between education and research may be the first step to solving American illiteracy.
To learn more about literacy or about our guests, visit the links below.
Dr. Mark Seidenberg, research professor in the department of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of Language At The Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can’t and What Can Be Done About It
Dr. Susan B. Neuman, professor at New York University
Dr. Marie Ann Donovan, associate professor at DePaul University
The LGBT community has often felt ostracized by various religious groups, specifically the Catholic Church. In 2013, Pope Francis made headlines by saying he wouldn’t judge homosexuals, which started a new process of reconciling the Catholic Church with the LGBT community. Reverend James Martin, SJ, a Jesuit priest and author of Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity, discusses how these two groups can treat each other with fairness and dignity
Martin points out that the church has always been opposed to same-sex relations because of homophobia. The Catholic Church and its members were often afraid of and made uncomfortable by gay people, and that was magnified by the church due to religious beliefs. As a result, many LGBT people have felt marginalized by the church. But, Martin says it is time to change this. He gives a few key pieces of advice to help include LGBT people into the Catholic Church. The most important thing, he says, is to listen to LGBT people and treat them like fellow human beings and fellow Catholics.
Martin encourages Catholics who have a prejudice against LGBT people to ask themselves one question: would I treat a straight person this way? In the Catholic Church, LGBT people are often put under a microscope for the sin of sexual immorality, while divorced people, or people living together before marriage, or people who have committed other sins get a ‘free pass.’ This selective focus on LGBT people and their sin is unfair, Martin says. Furthermore, he says, it’s important to make it clear that homosexuality is not a sin, because it’s not chosen. Especially when considering all the persecution that the LGBT community faces, Martin encourages his fellow Catholics to remember that we are all sinful and should not judge. By treating each other with respect and understanding, the LGBT community and the Catholic Church can bridge the conflict that has separated them for so long.
For more information about the Catholic Church and the LGBT community or to purchase of a copy of Martin’s book, see the links below.
James Martin, SJ, Jesuit priest and author of Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity
Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture. What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.
It’s a moment that eventually befalls all book-readers: You finally picked up a book you’ve been meaning to read and…you don’t really like it.
Do you finish reading it, or abandon it halfway?
For most of my life, I’ve believed in the former. I thought it was a cardinal sin to abandon a book before completion. Then I met my match: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. By all accounts, I should love that book. I love mysteries and detective stories. My friends and family have read it to rave reviews. And yet for years, I have stopped-and-started, trying to get through a book that just doesn’t grab my attention.
Last month, I gave it one final try. I got 200 pages into its 804 page length and decided it just wasn’t going to happen. For some reason, this renowned book that everyone says I’ll love and me just don’t click. So I set it back down, maybe forever.
For a little bit, that felt like quitting… and then I remembered all the other books I want to read. Since abandoning Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I’ve torn through Cujo and The Outsider by Stephen King and started reading Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. None of them have given me the feeling of having to eat my vegetables before dessert that I had every time I picked up The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
So my advice is this: If a book or movie or TV show is starting to feel like self-assigned homework instead of an enjoyable experience, just remember you don’t have to finish it. There are plenty of other stories on the shelves. And maybe down the line, you’ll go back to that abandoned novel and it will grab you in a way it didn’t before. Maybe there’s another attempt at Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in me. But not right now, I’m having too much fun with these other books.