The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Your View

February 20, 2014

Reading is a matter of social justice

In our society one must be able to read in order to reach one’s full potential. Not only do you need to know how to read, but you must be able to do so efficiently and effectively. However, according the National Institute of Literacy (part of the U.S. Department of Education), 14 percent of U.S. adults (or about 32 million) can’t read and 21 percent of U.S. adults read below a 5th grade level.

This greatly impacts their ability to earn a living wage and adequately provide for themselves or a family.

Children living in poverty score lower on all measures of academic achievement including reading. It’s not because poor people are less capable of learning and achieving; rather, it’s because the deck is stacked against them.

Environmental factors such as poor diet, inadequate neonatal and health care, lack of books and computers, and exposure to crime makes learning much more difficult for children living in poverty. Yet, it’s easy for those with means to blame parents for not spending enough time with their kids. However, time is a luxury for those with means.

If your daily existence is devoted to making sure your family has food, health care, shelter, clothes, and other necessities, there’s not a lot of time left over to spend reading to your kids (if indeed you had books), or to take them to a library (if indeed your neighborhood had a library and you had the means to get there).

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) estimates that approximately 20 percent of our children (about 14 million) have trouble learning to read. Of these, 3 percent to 5 percent (between 2.2 and 3.7 million) have a severe reading disability.

But even if one student was struggling to read, that would be too many, especially if that student was your own child. These students are twice as likely to drop out of high school when compared to their peers. As a result, they are more apt to be unemployed, underemployed and incarcerated. This means, they are far less able to contribute to society, provide for their families, spend money in our economy, and pay taxes. Thus, making sure all children learn to read is a social justice issue, but it also makes good economic sense.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Your View