THERE ARE STRAIGHT-A CITIZENS among us who read exceedingly well but may not be particularly literate. An individual can read Huckleberry Finn and report exactly what happened. But if the reading does not impact the individual’s perception of poverty or racism or faith or friendship, a strong argument could be made that the reader missed the large part of Sam Clemens’s message.
|(c) Time Magazine, 2005|
But we do so at our own peril. The amazing experiment that is this country’s democracy was arrived at through passionate disagreement, long oratorical debate, reasoned discourse, and finally compromise for a greater good. The disagreement, debate and compromise involved some of the most well read people of the day: our Founding Fathers. When we allow ourselves to evolve away from the skills and thought processes that provided the foundation for our country, we can do no better than to send representatives to Washington who also lack those skills. Today, we may be seeing the result.
NOW WHAT? Support literacy by practicing it. Here are a few ideas:
- Be well read.
- Read often.
- Read good stuff and “trash.”
- Understand that a written work must pass editorial scrutiny for accuracy, story line and marketability. Many other information sources only need to be marketable. (Sometimes they only need to be salacious or juicy.)
- Engage in a conversation with the author, even if it only looks like you’re talking to yourself.
- Balance what the author is saying with the truths you have established throughout your life. See if those truths budge a little bit.
- Upon completing the reading of a book or novel – especially a really good one – take a day or two and reflect on it. (I found myself doing this recently with Garth Stein’s novel The Art of Racing in the Rain, and then Kiyo Sato’s memoir Kiyo’s Story. I was amazed at how the stories continued to unfold after I’d finished the books; how my appreciation deepened and how the circumstances of each altered my point of view about love and patience, loyalty and patriotism.)
- Chat with others – particularly your kids – about what you valued in the work you just read.
For the upcoming generation?
- Let your kids catch you reading.
- Provide children with lots of material across many genres and topics.
- Know that one measure of a good juvenile reader is how much time they spend reading. The answer to the question “Does your child read for pleasure?” is more important than “Is your child learning reading skills?” The former will precede the latter.
- Engage children in discussion about what they’ve read; engage them in questions that demand a bit deeper thought.
- Limit to some extent (sorry, this one is negative) incessant exposure to entertainment that offers only immediate gratification.
- Read together.
IN THE FIRST ENTRY OF THIS SERIES, a question was posed: “If you could pick just one major issue confronting America today, and you were to dedicate 100% of your efforts to its resolution, what would be the issue?”
The good news is that we can all be literate.
Church of the Open Road Press