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
With recent governmental budget cuts, many public services are beginning to suffer. Not least among these are public libraries. While some still consider the work of libraries as outdated and unnecessary, Dr. Timothy Crist, president of the Board of Trustees for The Newark Public Library in New Jersey, and Karin Slaughter, author and founder of Save the Libraries, explain why taking funds away from libraries can result in long-term detriments to the community.
Crist argues that libraries are essential because of the work they do in preparing the community for the future. Helping people find jobs, providing Wi-Fi, encouraging family literacy, and much more is part of the everyday responsibilities of many public libraries around the country. The stuffy, quiet library of the past has transformed, in many cases, into a progressive, vibrant resource to help communities in modern society connect to and exchange information.
Save the Libraries, Slaughter’s organization, strives to provide funding for libraries in underprivileged communities. Slaughter speaks of the impact of libraries on her own life, explaining how the institution provided her with the chance to discover new worlds as child. Even now as a successful author, she uses libraries to access research and history records that are often unavailable anywhere else. She encourages individuals to reach out to their local governments and explain the need for libraries in the community, as well as donating to libraries that need it. Slaughter says that one dollar spent in the library returns five dollars to the community.
To learn more about libraries and our guests, visit the links below.
Dr. Timothy Crist, president of the Board of Trustees for The Newark Public Library (Newark, NJ)
Karin Slaughter, author and founder of Save the Libraries
America is facing a literacy problem: according to surveys, fewer than 50% of American schoolchildren are highly proficient readers. But solving the dilemma isn’t easy: why are so many students struggling and how can we fix it? We talk to several experts who suggest that we may simply be teaching the skill incorrectly. They address the fallacies many of us believe to be true and the balance our education system needs to strike in order to best cure the societal illness of illiteracy.
We hear it all the time – why can’t our kids read better? Our guest has some thoughts on the issue and offers some suggestions to parents, educators and policymakers about how expanding our children’s knowledge base in school will help make them better readers overall.