Literacy is not complex. But learning to read in English is complex. Reading is NOT like learning to talk or walk.
Gone are the days when children went to school to learn the 3 R’s! Before the 1920s parents would send their kids off to school at 7 years of age to learn the 3 R’s and before that there was always some family relative that would teach a child how to read. The 3 R’s is what is called today “foundational literacy.” This is what you learn in the early years from birth to about 4th grade. If you have been taught to read you would be proficient and can move on to learn the rules of grammar so you can write well. A solid foundation in reading, writing, and arithmetic makes for a solid foundation for academic success and lifelong learners. It didn’t matter whether you went to college, launched a business or followed a trade. Today, many want to expand the definition of literacy to stretch out to the electronic world to include new methods of meaning-making, and thus, I think, that in order for our kids to keep up, we MUST teach children how to read well–this is still lacking in schools today. Let’s explore the ways parents can help their children keep up and become proficient readers, yet still “keep up” with technology.
First, let me share Nickey Pietila top 10 different kinds of literacy in education today: I agree in some parts, but I differ in many so I will tweek it to explain why this new literacy is all bull. A literate society functions well when it reads well.
1. “Digital Literacy: This isn’t literacy and it won’t debilitate your kids if they don’t have it in school. While everyone seems to be more on their smartphones, tablets, and laptops and being connected seems to eat up on our lives from work to school to personal relationships, you don’t need it to have a “well-rounded education” you don’t need to learn this at school and not in the early grades. This takes away from what is necessary–reading books, playing with your friends, and learning to read.
2. Media Literacy: This isn’t literacy either but I call any media a form of communications that is aided by learning to read well. Yes, media creation and consumption is changing at a rapid pace, but someone who is a proficient reader can and will learn how to adapt to any “new communication formats – whether that’s instant messaging, push notifications, wikis, online communities, blogs, or vlogs” – and someone who is a proficient reader will know how to choose the most effective medium for communication in any given situation.
3. Visual Literacy: Again, this isn’t literacy at all but communication skills and yes, we do “take in more visual information than ever, the ability to comprehend – and to create – videos, photos, infographics”, and other visuals is something that ANYONE can learn and doesn’t change the fact that if you aren’t a proficient reader your visual content will not be as good as someone who is well-read.
4. Data Literacy: This isn’t literacy but an area of communications that “with the right tools and training, it’s easier than ever for students, parents, teachers, school leaders, and school partners for people “to have access to information and a proficient reader will be able “to make informed decisions.”Whether this looks like a student taking charge of his or her own growth or a teacher pinpointing specific skills the students needs, this could lead many students to study marketing and communications in college.
5. Game Literacy: Oh… come on… Gaming is NOT literacy. This is entertainment. And while some games are very educational, I won’t go out and get the Minecraft chapter books for my son to read… oh wait… I did go and get it… But I won’t allow my son to read them. Why? Because it’s written poorly. Full of bad grammar. And right now, my son is learning to read and learning the rules of letters and sounds–phonics. Of course, it won’t be difficult to convince students of the merits of this unconventional new literacy!!! Hello… your sitting in front of the screen for hours “zombiing out”. When you leave the screen, you’re like a zombie. While I agree to a certain extent that games can help improve scores in certain areas, I don’t believe that it will improve scores if the student is reading below average. So, like all things, everything in “MODERATION.” Strong READERS will score above average in math, reading, and science, and “the use of games at some some schools like Minecraft and SimCity will help kids develop fine motor skills, better navigation abilities, and problem-solving strategies,” if they have strong reading abilities. Gamification, in some students with this fluency, will level up faster. But if a student is reading below average, no amount of games will help unless they are games that teach them to read better. (e.g. Teach your monster to read game.)
6. Health & Financial Literacy: While they may go hand-in-hand. Being a strong reader will increase the likelihood that a person will have a “strong financial position.” And it will “make it easier to make healthy choices.” Everyone knows that “having good health makes it possible” to have “financial stability.”When it comes to health and financial literacy, reading well and proficiently makes a difference in your health and financial outcome. So, parents read to your children. Readers are made on the laps of their parents.
7. Civic & Ethical Literacy: This is historical & Political & philosophical & theological literacy and business literacy. Being able to bridge the past, the present, and the future, will help you make an impact in society. You can’t understand your rights and responsibility if you don’t know your past, and how it came to be. And Civic literacy means understanding your rights and responsibilities as a citizen. He who writes history holds the power into the present and the future. If you can’t read well and proficiently, you will be in a catch-22, and won’t be aware of opportunities & pathways for involvement. You won’t be able to argue “objectively.” And you will be swayed by con-men. Philosophical and Theological “literacy gets at the subtleties – what do you do when core values conflict?” (What is a core value and where does it come from?) These subject matters empower people to participate and initiate change.
8. News Literacy: This is a form of communication that educates about the world around you. We learn how to discern fact from fiction at a young age when we read fairy tales and myths, and because most adults are less than proficient readers, it’s easy to see why we are all a bit skeptical. It used to be that schools took most students to mastery, and some students were left behind, but now it seems that they don’t even take you there. To mastery. It seems that our students are less prepared for the world they are entering. I can see why in this age, where we are all connected, it would be hard, even for adults to be confident about what to believe. Most people don’t know the difference between fact and opinion. And everyone is an EXPERT! Everyone has an OPINION. And, rather than have objective discussions, everyone wants to show off their “smarts.” It’s no wonder we don’t get along. Once we learn to read, from birth to fourth grade, we should learn the rules of grammar and writing from 9 years of age to age 12. Then, in middle school, kids should have to analyze news sources to help them learn how to form their logic thinking. When everyone can take the law school entrance exam and say, “oh, I love logic games and I love analytical word problems, and I can link passages and read to comprehend,” that’s when elitism (an elite class of people that are proficient readers) will end and society will be able to participate in civic duty, if they want to. Thinking like a lawyer is just being able to think clearly, and logically, and analyze. This will help your children learn, not only how to find, and read the news, but how to think about it and evaluate it, and be ready for high school, college, and life.
9. Computers and coding: This is computer literacy. This is great to learn in middle school because it help students think about how a computer could help solve a problem – like how to create a video apps that more efficiently help a marketer create clean images. Communication skills are at the heart of the digital age. It makes sense to teach our kids the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic in k-8th grade. (i.e. Give your kids books. Build an expansive library. Be caught reading. Yes, you-parent, read.)
10. Basic Literacy: I like the definition in Teaching literacy is more than teaching simple reading skill: it can’t be done in five easy steps, by Robyn Ewing.“…listening to, reading, viewing, speaking, writing and creating oral, print, visual and digital texts, and using and modifying language for different purposes in a range of contexts.” “Literacy encompasses the knowledge and skills students need to access, understand, analyse and evaluate information, make meaning, express thoughts and emotions, present ideas and opinions, interact with others and participate in activities at school and in their lives beyond school….””Becoming literate is not simply about acquiring knowledge and skills. Certain behaviors and dispositions assist students to become effective learners who are confident and motivated to use their literacy skills broadly.”
Call it what you want, but when it comes to literacy: teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic – particularly in the early years – IS still the building block to learning other subjects. Join me this Friday at 5 PM on facebook to learn about literacy for a lifetime: books for Africa. https://www.facebook.com/events/521303758380871/?active_tab=discussion
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