Friday, February 14, 2020

Librarians: First Responders To The Illiteracy Pandemic via Perspectives on Reading

Librarians: First Responders To The Illiteracy Pandemic
Perspectives on Reading: 12.2019 by Steve Potash, Publisher

Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Lord John Bird to advocate for additional government funding for public libraries in the UK. The Big Issue and CILIP, with Lord Bird, published Public Libraries: The Case for Support, a well-researched study on the pressing need for public libraries in our communities. In getting to know Lord Bird, I’ve admired his transparency regarding the hardships of his youth and how it shaped his view of the world. At five, his family was homeless, and as a child, he spent two and a half years living in an orphanage. Growing up, he found meager work, including a two-week stint as a dishwasher at the House of Lords. He supplemented his sparse income through stealing, which eventually landed him in prison. It was in prison that Lord Bird was taught to read and write by prison guards. He has since devoted his adult life to improving conditions for the poor and promoting literacy.

When we launched Perspectives on Reading in June 2018, I wrote about how we all can support those on the front lines of literacy. My focus was on illiteracy’s impact on childhood development and the important role librarians play in filling the gaps. Data in The Case for Support further highlight the correlation between libraries and literacy. According to a 2011 study by the National Literacy Trust, young people who use their public library are twice as likely to be reading above their expected age and, conversely, young people who do not use their public library are twice as likely to be reading below their expected age.

My concerns about reading abilities go well beyond childhood. Adult literacy in the United States and around the globe is at a crisis point, with the most vulnerable and marginalized members of our society at the greatest risk. This includes those in the U.S. who speak English as a second language, those who struggle with financial literacy and numeracy, and incarcerated individuals. Just like in combating traditional illiteracy, librarians continue to be first responders to this illiteracy pandemic.

Libraries are essential to those in our communities who are learning English as a second language (ESL). U.S. data from Pearson Education indicates that in 2015 there were nearly 26 million individuals in need of English literacy.

Financial literacy
Financial literacy is a set of knowledge and skills that enable an individual to make sound financial decisions, such as opening a credit card or understanding the terms of a loan.

I serve on a local hospital board and through that experience I’ve become familiar with real issues of numeracy. Numeracy is the ability to understand and work with numbers.

The prison population
Today in the U.S., there are approximately 2.3 million persons incarcerated in jails, prisons, and detention centers. Studies indicate that as many as 75 percent of all incarcerated individuals are illiterate.  READ MORE >>

Based on (7) readability formulas:
Grade Level: 10
Reading Level: fairly difficult to read.
Reader's Age: 14-15 yrs. Old
(Ninth to Tenth graders)

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