Shedding Light on the Damaging Ramifications of Children's Illiteracy on Individuals and Our Society
Photo by Jerry Wang on Unsplash
By Saanvi Gandham
Although literacy is explicitly defined as the ability to read and write, its profound influence on children extends to all areas of life. Not only is literacy paramount to educational success, but it is also the basis of communication and relationships. Since reading and writing are globally predominant, literate children are more equipped to broaden their horizons and to be successful in adulthood. More importantly, literacy is firmly associated with psychological, social, and emotional development. Without confidence in reading, children and adolescents may have low self-esteem or feel detached from society.
While striving towards literacy for everyone is crucial, the root of this issue may be the children that miss out on the chance to learn reading and writing. A child makes significant cognitive connections during their formative years, and the brain of a 3-year-old is twice as active as that of an adult, staying this way for the first ten years of life(The Literacy Project). Therefore, caretakers must stimulate the minds of their little ones and nurture literacy in children.
Heartbreakingly, repercussions occur when the importance of reading remains unknown to a great deal of our population. If reading and learning are not encouraged during the early years, children from all over the nation, let alone the world, will face several challenges throughout their lives.
What contributes to the problem?
First, many families do not know about the detrimental effects of negligence on reading and illiteracy in children. Sadly, they substantially overlook the lifelong benefits of exposing their children to literature simply due to lack of awareness. A lack of computerized resources and educational material needed to learn reading also enlarges this issue.
Poverty has strong links to illiteracy, along with factors such as home life and family history. Childhood illiteracy can be an intergenerational issue, as parents may not be as prepared to foster literacy in their children. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, children of adults with low literacy skills are 72% more likely to have a lower reading level at school. In addition, attaining books is not feasible for many families living in poverty, outweighing basic living expenses. More than half of families in need do not have access to children's books(The Literacy Project).
Gaps in reading achievement can also widen due to differences in demographics and economic background. Children from low-income families are proven to be more susceptible to falling behind academically, and by the age of three, there is a 30 million word gap between children of the wealthiest and poorest families(Reading is Fundamental). Summers can also be extremely disadvantageous to these children. More than 80% of children from economically disadvantaged communities lose their reading skills during the summer due to an absence of books, learning resources, and external enrichment. Furthermore, 68% of fourth-graders in America read at or below a proficient level, and 82% of those children are from low-income families(The Literacy Project).
The Consequences of Illiteracy on Children in our Nation
Without a solid footing in reading during their early years, children fall behind their peers when they officially begin their education. For example, 34% percent of incoming kindergarten children lack basic reading skills(Reading is Fundamental). Two out of every ten children start kindergarten one year behind, and two more begin with skills two to three years behind their grade level(Children's Reading Foundation).
These children most often continue to stay behind throughout their education. More than 85% of the curriculum is taught through reading, and 74% of struggling readers will never catch up(Children's Reading Foundation). Additionally, a child is 90% more likely to remain a poor reader at the end of fourth grade if their performance is low by the end of first grade. Likewise, one in six children who are not reading proficiently in the third grade does not graduate from high 0school on time, a rate four times greater than that for skilled readers(The Literacy Project).
Moreover, illiteracy can be a major indicator of whether adolescents graduate from high school or drop out. A staggering 1.2 million teens, or one out of six students, drop out of high school every year due to a lack of academic achievement(ProLiteracy). What's more, students who are behind at the start of kindergarten make up the largest group of school dropouts, having less than a 12% chance of attending college(Children’s Reading Foundation). On a more universal level, around 4.5 million young adults are “disconnected,” or not in school/employed(Measure of America).
The Extensive Effects of Illiteracy on Society
Childhood illiteracy can have adverse implications on adult life. Functionally illiterate individuals are often unable to develop professionally and undertake extended education. Their financial life is typically not secure, and they are prevented from reaching their full potential in all facets of life. Illiteracy also has a pernicious impact on society, being connected to increasing unemployment and incarceration rates. Approximately 225 billion dollars of losses in workforce productivity, crime, and unemployment substantiates this claim(Pro Literacy). From an economic standpoint, the growth of our national GDP slows as more adults become illiterate. Tangentially, illiteracy hinders civic participation and involvement in the community.
I am an avid reader, and I cannot even begin to fathom how much reading has affected my life. There is a certain beauty in the way that literacy provides the keys to support individuality and new perspectives, and it's rather captivating how the complexities and nuances of written language can thoroughly express a point. Every day, I am so grateful for the opportunities that I have been blessed with, as I acquired English as a second language early in elementary school and had access to rich resources during my childhood.
This is why I sincerely believe that reading and articulation are doors that every child should be able to open. To make this a reality, all of us must try to do our part by acknowledging the problem, spreading awareness, and finding ways to help, whether small or large.
One of the most promising things a parent can do for their child is actively interacting with them during the first five years of life, known as the preparation gap. Because a child's early learning experiences can shape their success in school and beyond, home is where exploration begins. By initiating conversations, listening to their stories, reading to them in the night, and even exposing them to various forms of art/music, a parent can help their child's reading and writing skills blossom.
As mentioned before, one of the major issues surrounding illiteracy in children today is poverty. Without resources, guidance, and books at home, it becomes difficult to support a child in the endeavor towards well-being and academic success. We can take steps to overcome the deleterious influence of poverty on illiteracy by contributing to education and social-emotional support programs for low-income families, donating books, hosting book drives, fundraising for various organizations, assisting children one-on-one, and more.
Ultimately, by educating ourselves on the issues that encompass illiteracy and the effects that follow, we can empower the children of our generation to achieve their dreams and visualize a brighter, more equitable future.
Children and literacy
30 Key Child Literacy Stats Parents Need To Be Aware Of – Literacy Project Foundation Child Illiteracy in America: Statistics, Facts, and Resources | Regis College Childhood Illiteracy and Poverty in America
Youth Disconnection — Measure of America: A Program of the Social Science Research Council
School Readiness - Reading Foundation
LITERACY FACTS & STATS
Adult Literacy Research
Youth4Better Partners with Ridge Hill Mall and Feeding Westchester in a Competition to Raise Money for Low-Income Families
Ridge Hill Mall partnered with Feeding Westchester to raise money through "Branches of Joy", a Christmas tree competition amongst local businesses and nonprofits!
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The donations of Ridge Hill Mall, and other businesses and nonprofits that participated in the event, greatly impacted the abilities of Feeding Westchester. With several thousand dollars and several hundred food items, they are sure to feed dozens of families and help support our wonderful community through a difficult and unprecedented time.
Thank you to all New York volunteers who participated in this event!
The opinions and views expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not reflect the views, opinions or standpoints of Youth4Better. Any content published in this blog is not with the intent of harm towards any religion, ethnicity, race, organization, club, society, individual, or anyone or anything.