Guest post by Tami Lowe
At our basic level of knowledge, we know that literacy is an issue in the United States and across the human landscape. We also know that the obligation to read to our own children is very REAL. We may even feel guilt about that, in the form of: “Am I doing enough?”
Without getting into your psyche of self-talk to steer you away from feeling insufficient as a parent, how can I help you and your child?
To Parents and Caregivers:
Gone are the days where reading was done from paper in candlelight, or only at schools.
The Lexile Framework for Reading is used across the U.S. and the world as a measuring system to monitor and assess the levels of reading in children. Specifically, it is used in Florida, where I reside.
Generally, kindergarteners are expected to be reading at Beginning Reader (BR) Lexile Level. The range for first grade has number levels of BR 0-185. Unfortunately, there are children who start first grade at Below Basic levels. What am I talking about?
Perhaps the important thing to know is that teachers are measuring reading levels of kids, and also levels of books, and matching them up. According to Julie Barb, a first grade teacher in Livingston County, Michigan, the other children are not supposed to know what levels their classmates are at, but they often do. The teacher might use colored bins to keep the levels separated, but everybody knows: She reads better than I do, and they read worse.
Pediatricians recommend parents start reading to children in their infancy. There is a cadence and a flow. The mind internalizes and creates pathways with the sounds. The sooner we start reading, the better.
There is research to support benefits to human brain connectivity of writing with a pen versus typing to a screen. I was not aware: reading from a screen has also been shown to be related to lower reading performance in school-age kids through adulthood.
Though paper is still ideal, as a parent or caregiver of any kind, providing more words on every medium cannot hurt. Universally, let’s turn the closed captions to ON in the settings of all of our screens. The brain will see the words, along with all the colors, shapes, and sounds. It’s a simple setting adjustment that can give our kids a better chance at recognizing and using words.
If you are not a parent or caregiver:
We hear stories of people giving what they truly can in this effort. A barber shop in Pennsylvania pays one dollar to children when they sit in the chair and read aloud. Tiny book shelves are installed near sidewalks for neighbors to exchange family books.
I volunteer for Florida Writer’s Foundation (FWF). The FWF fundraises for grant money which they award to literacy programs in our state. Access to books is a consistent goal for many organizations and volunteers in our communities. To get books into the homes of children on every street and part of town is a worthy goal. If you have an idea for helping in this effort, you can submit a grant proposal found at our website, floridawritersfoundation.net. These are the stats we use under our letterhead on our donation forms:
“Twenty-five percent of Florida’s fourth graders do not pass the yearly reading assessment, and 60% are not at reading level. Twenty-five percent of adult Floridians read at an eighth grade level or lower and one in eight is functionally illiterate. We invite you to join us in doing something meaningful about these statistics.”
What can we do to help? First, establish your own sphere of influence, at the core. Then add a layer when you feel good about leveling up. You’ll know when you’ve got that core solid. I encourage all of us to reach beyond our homes, to find the one. The ripple effect is incalculable. Of course, giving to others brings happiness and purpose to us as well.
Thanks for reading!
Tami Lowe is a digital marketer, writer, and blogger. Her book, MAKING SPACE FOR ME, MY MORMON ADOPTION STORY, was published in 2018. As a Board Member of the Florida Writers Foundation and Chair of their Silent Auction, she helps raise money for literacy in the state of Florida. Tami is a member of the Florida Writers Association and Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She is the FWA RPLA Submission Coordinator. She judges for the RPLA competition and for WFWA’s Rising Star Award. Check out her website: tamilowe.com and follow her on social media: Facebook @tami.l.whiting and @Positive.Writing.Vibes, Instagram @peacegenie, and Twitter @tamiloweauthor.