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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Adolescent Literacy: A Hot Topic in 2010

According to  an article published by Jack Cassidy and Drew Cassidy on the International Reading Association's website, adolescent literacy was one of at least five very hot topics for literacy professionals this year. Several organizations -- from the National Governor's Association to The Carnegie Corporation -- have been working to identify and improve the state of middle school and high school literacy levels , which have been found woefully lacking for some time according to the US Dept. of Education's recent reading and writing assessments.

Reading to Achieve: A Governor's Guide to Adolescent Literacy  (National Governors Association, 2005):  defines the term as "...the set of skills and abilities that students read, write, and think about the text materials they encounter. Becoming literate is a developmental and lifelong process, which in the 21st century includes becoming literate with electronic and multimedia texts as well as conventional written material....America's adolescents need to be literate not only to succeed in school, but also to succeed in life." No one could disagree with this definition.  The challenge is going from simply naming the problem to a potential solution.

So how do we get tweens and teens to become more literate? A study by the Carnegie Corporation written by Steve Graham and Michael Hebert of Vanderbilt University called Writing to Read shows that increasing the time spent writing improves reading comprehension. Getting teens to write about what they've read further improves comprehension across all academic disciplines.  Simply taking notes, writing summaries, answering questions, or creating questions about a text helps them to integrate information and develop their knowledge about a subject.

How critical is the need for a solution to this growing dilemma? According to By Rafael Heller, Ph.D., in his article The Scope of the Adolescent Literacy Crisis, "Simply put, if the middle and high schools continue to churn out large numbers of students who lack the ability to read critically, write clearly, and communicate effectively, then the labor market will soon be flooded with young people who have little to offer employers and who cannot handle the jobs that are available."

Improved literacy one student at a time can help strengthen our economy. How about a new program dedicated to intensive literacy workshops where they are most needed in every city? Now that's a stimulus I can believe in...and one with a great potential for lasting results.

1 comment:

  1. I definitely agree with this sentiment. But one factor, perusing an education site complete with suggested activities and worksheets earlier today,was that a lot of these activities were encouraging parents to have kids write with pencil and paper. Which I find ludicrous and unrelated to the child's life. A child in today's world will spend more time on the computer than writing by hand. The child needs (if possible) to become better at writing all drafts in a document program. Otherwise, writing long hand will become synonymous with school work and not with general application. Our thought processes regarding textual communication are becoming as compartmentalized as spoken language (context specific). If we want students to increasingly engage in with reading and writing, we need to demonstrate that these skills are tightly wound to all methods of written communication: texting, instant messaging, social media writing (like blogging, facebook notes/statuses), e-mailing, business writing, fiction writing, journalism and academic writing. Also, the role of critical reading in all these arenas needs to be explored.