I rarely talk about statistics in my writing because they vary so widely and, if the one who struggles to read well is someone you love, statistics don’t matter. However, as I start this series of blogs, I want to establish that we are dealing with a significant reading problem.
I was chatting with the owner of a large drilling company that has a many rig workers. He told me that a number of those workers are unable to read the menu in a restaurant. They order from the pictures or by listening to others. I hadn’t really thought about how handicapped people are who can’t read.
These men have all attended school, at least into their teen years. What happened? They were living in highly literate surroundings and a lot of money was being spent on their education. How can the statistics on reading be so dismal when we have such an elaborate education system?
The 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress in the United States reports that approximately 66% of students in eighth grade are not proficient in reading.
In 2000, Statistics Canada reported that over 22% of Canadians (16 years and over) have serious difficulties with reading. Another 25% fall into the second lowest level; they can read, but not well. That is almost half of our adult population who are not effective readers!
A 2008 study by the International Reading Association found that by fifth grade poor students have an average score almost 20 points below that of their more advantaged peers. If this is the case, it doesn’t bode well for Alberta where I live. Poverty among children has increased 40% in recent years, from 53,000 in 2008 to 73,000 in 2009.
Michael Gorman, president of the American Library Association and librarian at California State University says, “It’s appalling – it’s really astounding. Only 31% of college graduates can read a complex book and extrapolate from it. That’s not saying much for the remainder. We just don’t have a good explanation.”
Commenting on the vast reading gap in Connecticut, Elaine Zimmerman, Executive Director of Connecticut Commission on Children says, “Research indicates that 95% of children can learn to read, the real problem is changing how things are done.”
As I start this series of blogs, there is one theme that will thread throughout my writing. I believe that anyone of sound mind, who can talk and recount a television program, can read. If they can’t, it is because blockages have been created in school or at home. I don’t blame anyone for this failure. Everyone does the best they can based on their own experience and knowledge.
I focus my writing on what happens today, as you sit beside someone with a book to share. I do not want to present a yardstick to measure your past experiences.
As we share our experiences I look forward to your questions and comments over the coming weeks. We can all learn to improve our performance by dialoguing and sharing.
Until next week,