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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The State of Literacy: Did you know?

TT 04/26/2007
Rashenbo's Edition #19

Millions of blogs take up space on the net and they come in all shapes and sizes. Truly, the blogosphere is a reflection of our diverse cultures and beliefs. Blogs that: are mom blogs, pet blogs, corporate, political, humorous, focused on a hobby, focused on making money, and everything else with a bag of chips. One thing they all share is the written word.

Each and every one of us not only has a familiarity, but a passion to write and read… even if the writing is just a joke, a review of a TV show, or a title on a photograph.

As long as there are humans, there will be conflict. Many of us are focused on the major situations prevalent in our news: Global Warming, War, Economic Instability, Crime, Violence, Natural Disasters, Anna Nicole Smith…

It’s easy to forget about the more basic problems that face our society, problems that affect each state, every country. Through our ability to learn, from our parents, and from those educators that showed us the way - we received a gift, reading and writing. Such a basic thing and our lives, our successes, even our futures are all based upon this skill.

- "The UN defines illiteracy as the inability to read and write a simple sentence in any language. In 2003, the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), conducted by the US Department of Education, found that fourteen percent of American adults scored at this “below basic” level in prose literacy in English. More than half of these persons did not have a high-school diploma or GED. 39 percent of persons at this level were Hispanic; 20 percent were black; and 37 percent were white." Source

- Our country ranks 49 out of 156 UN countries in literacy, 18 spots lower than where it was in 1950. Illiteracy costs the US more than $225 billion a year in productivity. 60% of all juvenile offenders have problems reading. Source

- "According to UNESCO, in the world today there are about 1 billion non-literate adults. Women represent 2/3rds of that 1 billion." Source

- "In 1998, the EFA 2000 Assessment measured progress and reported that, while some progress had been made in educating children, 113 million still remained out of school. The overall adult literacy rate had risen, but at least 875 million adults remained illiterate, 64% of them women." Source

- "To examine fourth-graders' views on reading for enjoyment, PIRLS 2001 created an index of Students' Attitudes Toward Reading (SATR). All of the participating G8 countries, with the exception of England, had greater percentages of fourth-graders with higher SATR scores than the United States." Source

- The CIA reports that the US has a 99% literacy rate. Source

- There have been minimal increases in the reading scale scores over the last 30 years. Source

- "In California, 85% of nonfiction books in school libraries were published 15 years ago." Source

- "Evidence shows that children who do not read by third grade often fail to catch up and are more likely to drop out of school, take drugs, or go to prison. So many nonreaders wind up in jail that Arizona officials have found they can use the rate of illiteracy to help calculate future prison needs." Source

- Utah claims to have the highest literacy rate in the nation. Source

Three simple ways you can help improve literacy:

- Read books, let people see you reading, and talk about them. Ask questions.

- Get involved in your library by volunteering your time to help local literacy programs.

- Encourage children to read for enjoyment and pleasure. Reading is fun. Share that. There is more to life than myspace, ipods, PSPs, and nickelodeon.

Now I have a question for you, take a moment and ponder, where would you be if you couldn’t write, let alone read, a sentence?

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Blogger Amy Ruttan said...

I don't know where Canada sits, but it's so sad the rate that it is.

People get so attached to their TV's I was one of them. I cut the cords, but I've never had a problem with reading.LOVE IT, from my first Dr. Suess "Scrambled Eggs Super" to the recent book I devoured "The Birth House", reading is something I couldn't live without.

If I had to loose either sight or sound. Sound would be it, hands down.

Happy TT!

5:06 PM  
Blogger Rashenbo said...

I agree with you. I think I could cope without hearing, speaking or tasting before seeing.

It's so foreign for me to think there are people out there who haven't experienced the joy of reading. It's just sad.

And it impacts so much!

5:13 PM  
Blogger Tink said...

I didn't know a lot about illiteracy, so thanks for educating me. I don't know how it is over here in the Netherlands. Choosing between sight and sound is too hard for me, although I have a tendency to go for keeping sight.
My TT: Thirteen things I do on the computer

5:22 PM  
Blogger impworks said...

At a personal level I struggle to imagine what being illiterate must be like. Today I've read everything from a speach by Roosevelt and a foreword to the speach by Gordon Brown, a bit of the Epic of Gilgamesh, a few pages of Chandler's the Big Sleep, TV listings, words scattered across the web and probably so much more. How hard must it be to live if all those glyphs are meaningless?

5:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As others have said, I can't imagine life without reading, and I can't imagine what my childhood would have been like without books. Illiteracy is a terrible problem. And books and reading for pleasure and/or for knowledge are becoming undervalued in this society which seems more and more geared toward instant gratification and thought-free, passive entertainment.

Thanks for an enlightening and thought-provoking list, and Happy TT!

5:34 PM  
Blogger Rashenbo said...

It's that instant gratification that's becoming the root of many problems. Children already don't have a lot of patience, but our society tries to give them everything and so fast... want music? have an ipod... want to play a game, have a gaming console.... get bored standing in line or waiting at the dr.'s office? You need a game boy....

I mean come on. I never see kids just waiting patiently for anything anymore. If they aren't attached to something electronic then they are endlessly badgering or moping. Sometimes, taking your time and appreciating the anticipation is quite satisfying.

It's one of the reasons I love reading so much... and I NEVER skip to the end. I can be intimately involved on a deeper level than anything I could get from television. I can move at whatever pace my lifestyle demands... and I can savor that anticipation of wondering... how will this end! (and I get an ending... not like tv shows where they build you and build you and never give you resolution)

6:01 PM  
Anonymous Cheryl said...

Thanks so much for all the information! I can't imagine my life without reading. I love books. Always have. Had some excellent teachers who instilled the love of reading into us right at the start. I want to do right by my kids and expose them more to books. Problems is they hate sitting still and will rip the books out of my hands sometimes. I'll keep trying!

6:25 PM  
Blogger Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Amen, sisterfriend.

I gotta go play a game with my kids (no electronics involved, thankyouverymuch). Happy TT!

6:27 PM  
Anonymous Heather Rae Scott said...

This is a great list of things on literacy. Thank you for teaching me a thing or two.

Happy TT

6:58 PM  
Anonymous Lene said...

Great list! As a former reading teacher - I like to see people passing that word on. Happy TT!

7:28 PM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

Oh gosh, I worry what's going to happen to our MySpace- and video game-addicted society!

Great post, rashenbo. Where would be without reading?

7:29 PM  
Blogger Wylie Kinson said...

Great, thought-provoking, kinda-scary post. I LOVE to read and hope to instill the same in my children. So far, I've got one reader, and one who's too hyper to sit still for more than 30 seconds. We're still working on him!

7:48 PM  
Blogger Janet said...

My parents read to both me and my brother...I fell in love with books, he did not.

8:02 PM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

Seven years old was lifechanging for me. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Alldinger, taught me to read. And, I have never looked back. MY parents both read. My mother taught my dad how to read.

My son, finally, loves to read. My girls are getting there.

I cannot imagine a life without reading.

Great post. Did you see Idol tonight? THey talk about the literacy problem in the US.

9:33 PM  
Blogger Rhian / Crowwoman said...

excellent post. you might as well ask me what i would do if i couldn't paint - same diff. Answer - suffer.

9:47 PM  
Blogger Kathy said...

You've given us a lot to think about. I remember when I was young, my mom would always take me & my two brothers to the local public library. She loved reading and set a good example for us.
I started volunteering for libraries when I was in middle school, through high school, did my work study program with the campus library, then as a mom found a part-time job at our local library. I loved it! [for five years anyway]
My home state (oregon) is going to close all their local public libraries. It's so sad, because they are the right hand of public schools. I'm sure that will do soooo much for the literacy rate of the state.

9:47 PM  
Blogger JennyMcB said...

Good list. If more money was spent now on 'good' literacy programs for K-3, just imagine the money we would save later on.

I sometimes have to write patient directions and have to keep in mind the fifth grade reading level. How much easier are we going to have to make it for people to survive in the world? We need to make literacy a national goal.

9:53 PM  
Blogger Miscellaneous-Mum said...

All very scary statistics. I thank God that I can give my chidren that special gift of literacy and they (hopefully!) won't get left behind.

Thanks for visiting me :)

10:02 PM  
Anonymous Journeywoman said...

I work in publishing so I wouldn't have a livlihood.

10:03 PM  
Blogger Rashenbo said...

My life would be so empty with out stories. My 9 year old is an excellent reader and is in advanced reading programs at school... sometimes she seems very interested in reading, and sometimes her friends are just too important. But, if I say I'm going to the book store both my children jump up and plead to go so they can buy a new book. To them, the bookstore is just as exciting as the toystore (if not more so because mom will almost ALWAYS buy them a book).

My 7 year old has been diagnosed with ADD, but we need to return to the psychologist, the teacher who has spent 15 years as a teacher of ADD children doesn't think it's the accurate diagnosis. It's so hard to pinpoint issues with young children. She was struggling so much with reading. My husband and I were so frustrated, we just didn't know what to do.

Fortunately, our school has a reading recovery program. Every day for 30 minutes our daughter is with a reading specialist. I am so thankful for this program. I would send Mrs. Mulvey roses every week if I could. Our 7 year old has made such leaps and bounds in reading. The other day she actually picked up a chapter book and started reading. I was so proud of her, 6 months ago she could barely read Goodnight Moon.

10:05 PM  
Blogger Lori's Light Extemporanea said...

Extremely well written and considered. Kudos and happy TT!

10:13 PM  
Blogger L^2 said...

WOw, this is an incredibly thought provoking list. I can't imagine not reading and writing. The quality of my life would definitely suffer if I couldn't , because I love these things so much.
Thanks for visiting my list.

10:16 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

Wonderful, informative Thursday Thirteen! For a nation as rich as we are, it's shameful how great an illiteracy rate we have. But then, what can we expect when people refuse to properly fund our schools or adult outreach programs?

10:28 PM  
Anonymous Christine said...

I'm curious to learn how the CIA defines literacy.

Very informative TT - thanks for all the research.

10:28 PM  
Blogger Rashenbo said...


That's what I was wondering too...

10:43 PM  
Anonymous laughing mommy said...

Great TT.

What would I do without books! I don't want to find out...

11:16 PM  
Anonymous Damozel said...

Some of the statistics surprised me. I didn't realize that the U.S. literacy rate was so high (or the bar so low, I guess). You're right that this is, or ought to be, a major issue for the entire world.

Thanks for this list; I love a substantive 13.

11:49 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

I think I'd shrivel up inside if I could no longer read or write.

1:43 AM  
Anonymous she said...

The literacy rates worldwide always disturb me. That probably explains why what little time I have to volunteer is always taken up with Adult Literacy groups.

It amazes me how far the literacy rates appear to be falling amongst youth in recent years. When I was a child, people didn't graduate from school if they couldn't read. Yet I'm seeing that happen more and more as the "self-esteem" movement becomes more and more prevalent.

We (Western society) have no one to blame but outselves for allowing this to happen.

1:54 AM  
Blogger Enferes said...

The problem regarding literacy in this country is that we have become too visual. Television has replaced the need to search out and discover and because of that the necessity to read, that tool that is most useful in discovering so much about the mystery that is our world, has fallen by the wayside. Is it any wonder that as literacy drops so does creativity, independent thought, and tolerance? The blame could be shifted to anyone but it belongs to everyone; to schools for not pushing kids hard enough; to parents for not helping their struggling children; to politicians who simply don't care; and to ourselves for allowing this to come to pass. Literacy is learning. Learning is growth, spriritual blossoming. Take that away and it is the same as a drought. Civilization and the former glories of humanity will shrivel and we will slowly fall back among the animals as mindless variables in the equation dubbed Life. Literacy is the opportunity to transcend. Do we really want to deprive the world of that?

3:53 AM  
Blogger mar said...

It must be terrible to be illiterate...they are missing so much! I once read the German stats and their illiteracy rate was uncredibly high, they even had a commercial on tv to encourage adults to go and get the necessary classes...just to learn how to read and write! Amazing, in a first world country...
Your TT has left me thinking...Happy thirteening!

4:18 AM  
Anonymous jerry said...

I agree with she as to the cause of the growth in illiteracy. It's time to stop celebrating mediocrity and go back to celebrating accomplishment. If not, we'll eventually be celebrating a country full of social-aid recipients.

5:40 AM  
Blogger Tilly Greene said...

It's a real problem that many people pass over. In our household, everyone [no matter how young or old, parent to godchild] gets a book for their birthday...thankfully they are all readers and love to talk books.

Volunteering at the local library is a great, but you can also ask your local bookseller if you can host an hour a week to read books to kids, go to a nursing home and read to those who can't go out or are loosing their site. There's so many, go out and give your time, in many cases its as valuable than $'s!

5:46 AM  
Anonymous gabriella hewitt said...

This is an excellent post. Well thought out and well researched. Thanks for taking the time to put this together. Every week I find a real gem amongst the TT lists. I consider this, this week's gem.

The statistics are sad and discouraging. So much really needs to be done. I've started connecting students with young adult authors and tween authors. We have chats taking place this week and next with 11th graders. One class is particularly difficult the teacher mentioned-not really into reading. We worked hard to find an author with the kind of gritty, edgy story likely to connect with these kids. I hope it works. If even one kid walks away from the chat feeling inspired to read a book or write, it will have been a success.

Again thanks for the reminder of how much we need to work on this issue. Reading opens up doors of opportunities to everyone.

5:48 AM  
Anonymous Write From Karen said...

No reading or writing? We'd be without blogging, without recipes, without satisfying, decent-paying jobs. But more importantly, we'd be in the dark, we'd be ignorant, we'd be taken advantage of and made a fool of - it wouldn't be a very full, or productive life.

I can't imagine not knowing how to read or write. Thanks for the grim statistics and the reminder.

6:41 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Shirk said...

LOVE to read. I cannot imagine not being able to.

Great post.

7:45 AM  
Blogger Elle Fredrix said...

I was going to ditto Jennifer and say I couldn't imagine it, but maybe I do have a parallel.

I have an 800 line at work, and I often get wrong numbers from all over N American. I had this poor old French Canadian man call me about 10 times the other day. And for those of you that think all Canadians speak French, we don't.
Not being able to communicate to him that someone had given him the wrong number, and I wasn't an insurance company, was completely frustrating. I wanted to make him understand, and I couldn't. I imagine that inability to communicate could be compared to being illiterate.

Insightful post.

8:06 AM  
Blogger julia said...

My husband and I moved from a big city to a large fishing town for two years. I had no idea until I lived there that so many people were driving cars, operating boats and installing sattelite dishes but were functionally illiterate. Why bother when they could make a very decent living fishing? Not that all the fishermen were illiterate. There's a thriving arts community there and a fabulous international magazine store that saved my sanity. But working as a clerk, I had to read greeting cards for quite a few grown men so they could purchase them. Freaked me out.

8:35 AM  
Anonymous Barbara H. said...

Sobering statistics.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Christie said...

wow, we have a lot of work to do in our country! not only is illiteracy an awful thing to deal with in someone's daily life, but I hate to think that they're also missing out on life-changing works of art, thousands and thousands of pages of wonderful words! books literally change me. this is so sad!

9:15 AM  
Blogger Jess said...

Very thoughtful post. I think I am going to look into this issue further, and thank you for blogging about it today.

If I couldn't read...I really don't know where I would be today. My first instinct was to say that I would be depressed and hopeless, but I say that as a person who CAN read and is only trying to imagine being any other way. I certainly would not be as successful as I am today, and that alone is reason enough for me to do what I can to help.

9:33 AM  
Blogger JAM said...

My parents read voraciously, but I didn't catch the book reading bug until I was 18. I could read fine, but didn't enjoy it.

I see facts and figures like you posted here, but it's hard to relate, I've only known two people in my whole life that I KNEW couldn't read. It still boggles the mind to realize how many people in this country cannot read. Interesting and thought provoking post.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Mercy's Maid said...

This is a great post about an important issue. I volunteered with the local Literacy Council for several years and it really opened my eyes.

The first student I tutored was a young guy (early 20's). He had found clever ways to make it LOOK like he knew how to read and avoid embarrassment.

We watched a video in one of the training sessions that showed how simple things that we take for granted aren't so simple for some people: reading a medicine bottle, finding a phone number in the phone book, reading directions, etc.

It's a complicated issue. The majority of adults with reading problems also suffer from a learning disability.

If you're interested in helping, contact your local literacy council and see what you can do. There's usually a shortage of tutors!

10:34 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

As a parent, the most rewarding thing for me has been to see my girls start to develop their love of reading. They are only 5 and 7 but they love their books and telling stories. We try to manage how much TV they watch, but it's hard.

This list is a great eye opener. Thanks for sharing!

11:03 AM  
Anonymous It's Me... Maven said...

Fantastic post! Great cause!

11:08 AM  
Blogger MamaToo said...

I so appreciated the thoughtfulness of this post, and especially the ideas that put responsiblity back on each of us. It is easy to waste time wringing our hands, but so valuable to share our enthusiasm for language with the next generation. Thank you, thank you!

11:39 AM  
Anonymous scooper said...

Great topic. I like to see the get involved type posts the best.

11:51 AM  
Anonymous Lara said...

I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't read... it's such an integral part of my life and has been for so long... I'm consumed with words... and with a career as both a writer and an editor... what a horrible thought.

Some scary thoughts you've laid out. Hopefully we'll soon be able to see change...

12:32 PM  
Blogger thecabinet said...

Truly interesting list !!

12:33 PM  
Blogger Robyn Mills said...

One of my most enjoyable classes was teaching adults to read. The pleasure on their faces when they finished their first book is something I treasure.

12:36 PM  
Blogger Titania Starlight said...

That was just awesome!
I started to read at age 5. I was in accelerated reading classes by the time I was in second grade. I have always treasured books. I could never imagine not being able to read or write and yet I know many are functionally illiterate. No child should ever be allowed to graduate without being able to read or write. In the United States there is no excuse.
Thank you for the thought provoking message.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Sophisticated Writer said...

Totally agree with Thomma. What's life without reading, writing and books?

I can't even imagine...

Great TT, Rashenbo!

5:03 AM  
Blogger Joy Renee said...

where would I be without reading or writing? Hell.

But the question makes no sense. Because without reading and writing, who would I be? That's what I can't imagine. That 'I' would not be me.

gives me the shivers.

my TT is 13 sources for free ebooks online. part of my research into substitutions for libray resources we lost here this month.

6:19 AM  
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