Did you know that 14% of U.S.
adults struggle to read medicine labels, maps, or names on a ballot. Their
families are plagued by poverty because they cannot read a job application or
understand their children's report cards.
In America there are over 550,000 families with
young children that are homeless. These homeless children are put at a higher
risk for not becoming literate, simply because of their living conditions.
Because of how homeless resources
are acquired, many children are moved around frequently. The lack of a
consistent home environment and the placement in a homeless shelter or foster
home can restrict early literacy development. To compound matters, moving
around frequently can also make it hard for homeless children to attend school
regularly, make ties with teachers and acquire basic reading skills at a young
Becoming a literate adult is a huge leg up in escaping poverty and
homelessness. Sadly, being a homeless child makes the odds of becoming a
literate adult that much slimmer. The exact causes of illiteracy in America are
so varied and vast it would be hard to give just one answer to how we got where
we are today. But, it clearly has a strong link to socio-economic standing.
We all know children who face the
challenges of poverty are at a disadvantage. In fact, children who have not
been well-fed or well-nurtured, are less healthy and subsequently less ready to
learn than their peers. Ultimately the effects of these early setbacks can be
seen well into adulthood. Additionally, it is also shown that struggling
readers from low-income families are 13 times less likely to complete high
school than their peers who can read proficiently. Not graduating high school
can put a damper on ambitious career plans, and makes it that much harder to
break out of the poverty level.
When schools close up shop for the
summer, many children lose their daily access to books. Not engaging with books
and learning on a daily basis cause most children to lose up to one month of
taught knowledge, and disadvantaged students often are the most affected.
During the elementary school years,
children who have limited access to summer reading at libraries often fall
behind their peers as they advance academically, especially in literacy and
comprehension. Instilling summer reading habits can play a critical role in
providing a foundation for success later down the road.
Finally, it boils down to common
sense – more access to books means more reading. And, more reading means
children write better, spell better, have larger vocabularies and a greater
understanding of grammar. All of these positive results of reading add up to
academic success and have a compounding effect as children grow and develop.
Kofi Anon once said, “Literacy is a
bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It
is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential
complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories. Literacy is a
platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and
national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family
health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with
education in general, a basic human right.... Literacy is, finally, the road to
human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can
realize his or her full potential.”
Literacy is not a luxury; it is a
right and a responsibility. If our world is to meet the challenges of the
twenty-first century we must harness the energy and creativity of all our
citizens. I will have more this week on the importance and relation of literacy skills to the homeless.