Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Determination Wins Out

Written by Shelle Lenssen
Guest Blogger

Determination Wins Out

Literacy statistics are scary. I think of myself as fairly on-the-ball when it comes to early childhood education and read to my daughters almost daily, but these numbers give me full body shivers.  

Here’s a sampling:

--Children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are 3 - 4 times more likely to drop out in later years. (National Adult Literacy Survey, NCES, U.S. Department of Education)

--78% of juvenile crime is committed by high school dropouts. (National Children’s Reading Foundation)

--60 percent of America's prison inmates are illiterate and 85% of all juvenile offenders have reading problems. (U.S. Department of Education)

-- More than 20 percent of adults read at or below a fifth-grade level - far below the level needed to earn a living wage. (National Institute for Literacy)

Those numbers should be enough for me to spend 20 minutes a day reading nursery rhymes to my 2-year old, or sounding out words in a first-grade reader with my 6-year old. After all, when I look at my sweeties, I certainly don’t see future crime-committing high school dropouts. I don’t see prison inmates or grown women struggling to earn an income. I see future astronauts, artists, teachers, doctors, engineers, writers, musicians, etc. Through my parenting lens, I see only good things and positive futures for my daughters.

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However, there are days when vomit covered bedding needs washed for the third time, a work project runs late, dinner burns in the oven, and the toddler screams through her bath. On those days, it is much easier to tune out, put on a kid’s show and let the children veg out in front of the TV for the evening. We’ve all learned along the road of this Parenting Journey that the easy choice isn’t always the right one.

And so we read. In a kitty voice, I read That’s Not My Kitten to a giggling 2-year old. My husband patiently sits with our frustrated first-grader as she sounds out tough words from her newest Fancy Nancy book. He also gives her an enthusiastic high-five when she finally gets it. We read in the car on long road trips and during the 20-minute drive to school in the morning. With our 6-year old, we go over sight words, spelling words, and vocabulary words. With our toddler, we sing silly songs and read the same book together over and over and over again. Our girls have a book nook in one corner of the living room and some nights, dozens and dozens of children’s books are strewn about as they both sit amidst the pile, flipping through their favorites.

Our reading routine may not match that of other families. The real point is we’re trying, and we’re going to keep trying.  The numbers tell us that reading is much more than enjoying a good book and quality time together; it also improves the futures of our children.

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