Literacy is making the headlines as we go back to school
As Beyond Basics gets ready to go back to school, literacy is making headlines again in the news. Although the news isn’t good, we are glad to see this crisis get the attention it deserves. We can see the frustration building and signs it has reached a boiling point.
We get children reading in record time; so what makes illiteracy a crisis? The sheer number of children who need our help. In Detroit, 90 percent of students aren’t reading at grade level with similar percentages across the state and nation. Illiteracy in struggling communities has run rampant for decades.
From the frontlines at Beyond Basics, we see the magnitude of the problem. Children who are two or more grade levels behind in reading do not get the intensive care they need in school to be successful. They show up to school every day expecting the instruction they get will make all the difference in their lives. Instead they get passed along.
What happens if we don’t teach children to read?
Children who can’t read have a future with very few options. If you can’t read, you are essentially locked out of an education. And without an education, your choices in life become much more limited and the consequences more dire — the street, prison or at minimum a hard life with limited potential. The cycle of illiteracy continues because illiterate children grow up to be illiterate adults.
Creating a sense of urgency
In America, we do an amazing job at helping people who are victims of a natural disaster far from home. But we also need to help victims in our own backyard, those who are suffering from manmade disasters that occur over time, like a failing educational system.
When the hurricane hit a few years ago in Houston, our hearts were moved and together we urgently gave our time and resources to help. Doctors, nurses, firemen and police gave their all, but there was just too much to do; they needed help. Our community leaders and neighbors rallied together to make a difference.
The literacy crisis is not much different. The teachers can definitely educate children and teach them to read. Teachers are the heroes in this crisis since they show up daily, in these struggling communities, to do their best on behalf of children. There are just too many children who have already fallen behind for them to do this alone. These children need individual attention and instruction to get them on track so they can succeed.
In a natural disaster we lead with our hearts and act quickly, but with this crisis we judge and blame. Once we lead with our hearts and embrace solutions that are right in front of us, we will help those who have suffered way too long.
Today, the children in our city and nation can’t read. But that doesn’t have to be our nation’s legacy. We have a solution. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get started. Together we can get this done. It will be life changing for all of us.