Why is literacy important? Kofi Annan, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former Secretary General of the United Nations, once described literacy as “a bulwark against poverty, a building block for development and a platform for democratization”. Literacy is more than the ability to read and write. It opens the doors to academic and personal success. On a larger scale, literacy impacts the social and economic health of our community and our nation.
It is often said among educators that students first learn to read so that they can read to learn. Those who fail to learn to read and write early in their college career are at much greater risk of falling further behind in later years. The ripple effect caused by this deficiency can negatively affect individuals for the rest of their lives.
Research shows that students who are not reading at grade level by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than their “competent” peers. Completing high school is also a good indicator of better financial and social outcomes over a lifetime.
Unfortunately, not all students start elementary school with the same resources and abilities. Some barriers to early literacy include poverty, limited English language, processing disorders like dyslexia, developmental disabilities, and learning loss due to the pandemic. We believe it is important to support programs such as pre-kindergarten and Head Start to provide early learning opportunities that improve literacy outcomes.
The art and science of teaching a child to read requires teachers to have many tools. Teachers use data to differentiate instruction based on individual student needs. For those who struggle to speak and read English, programs such as English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and our Intensive English Academy provide students with the English support they need. to progress in school and beyond. Advanced professional learning opportunities provide teachers with specialized techniques and strategies designed to help students learn to read. From kindergarten through high school, our teachers are dedicated, well-trained professionals who work tirelessly to help every child improve their literacy skills to prepare them for success in life.
Beyond the classroom, our schools partner with the community to improve literacy and academic achievement throughout Whitfield County. Our educators work collaboratively with civic organizations, other school systems, and colleges to provide students with year-round literacy support, both inside and outside the classroom.
One of the advantages of teaching a child to read is that you don’t have to be an educator to help them. The simple fact that adults read to young children plays an important role in the development of reading skills. In addition to reading to children, adults who model literacy by reading books in front of children can plant seeds of literacy for the future.
Wherever you are and whatever your educational background, you can contribute to children’s literacy by volunteering in one of our schools, with one of our partner organizations or simply by taking the time to read. to a child in your family. Literacy is essential to the lives of young people and to the life of our community. We can all play a role in improving literacy in our community.
Mike Ewton is the superintendent of schools for Whitfield County.