by Aleah Fedorciw
Reading is a skill that is valued in many cultures. Literacy has long been viewed as a trait of higher education, a valued ability. However, what exactly is literacy? According to Oxford’s dictionary, it is “the ability to read and write”. Thinking about it, these tasks may not seem to be that difficult, especially as you are currently using one of those tools to understand this article! Contrary to that thought though, in recent years, The Huffington Post, stated that 14% of the adult American population couldn’t read. In a world in which everyone aims to succeed and to be the best, literacy is key, thus making the teaching of reading a staple.
However, how (and if!) this process takes place is by no means standard across this country or even this world. Schools are constantly being evaluated to see if their teachings are up to par and how well their students are absorbing the lessons. Thankfully, when schools are struggling, there are urban literacy consultants, such as Kathryn Starke, who can swoop in to save the day.
While reading and writing are usually associated with school and with homework, there is also the element that is taught at home. Simply being read to, listening and associating certain sounds with a certain grouping of letters, slowly establishes the concept of literacy in a person’s head.
From when I was younger, I can recall both of my parents reading to me, trying out words on my own, and working on my “Hooked on Phonics” books. Slowly, this transitioned into reading Harry Potter with my mom, and when I became “hooked” on magic, I snuck a dictionary into my room, so I could stay up past my bedtime and learn all about Harry’s next adventure. When I started to babysit, I learned that “Hooked on Phonics” was no longer the hippest way to learn, but the “Leap Pad” had hopped right in to the world and the hearts’ of young, new readers and their parents, leaving my lessons further and further behind.
No matter what the day, year, or even century, transition and technological advancements are inevitable. While electronics are progressing, so are the tools being used to inspire literacy. Some people have replaced their traditional printed books by the “Kindle” and from there the “iPad”. In this fast paced world in which we live it is we really do not know what will be coming next.
While looking forward, it is hard to stay locked in the present. Watching children hooked to the screens, it seems like a dream. Reading is no longer a tedious task, but can be made into a quick and easy game. The hassle of learning to read has seemingly been washed away. No more pages to flip, just a quick tap in the corner. No more heavy, cumbersome new learners books in a diaper bag, but just one lightweight device. However, do these advancements truly signify the best for the young students?
According to Dr. Victoria L. Dunckley of Psychology Today, children are the ones facing the negative effects. In utilizing these devices, they may be more inclined to read on a game, but she has seen that “screen time is creating subtle damage…many of the children [she] sees suffer from sensory overload, lack of restorative sleep, and a hyperaroused nervous system”. While maybe at some points the world may be successfully encouraging children to read, they are also slowly paying the price. Whether or not children are utilizing their technology in a seemingly responsible manner, even what may seem like a little can in actuality be a lot.
Applications are slowly being released on many forms of technology to reduce the harshness of the light on many technologies such as phones, laptops, and iPads. This “blue light” holds the power to disrupt sleep patterns and damage eyes, and on young, impressionable minds, these problems can last a while.
However, not only is learning to read on technology difficult on the mind, but it can also hinder motor skills. Simple tasks, like flipping a page, do not really seem like all that much. Since a young age, many were trained in the motion of pinching a page together and sweeping an arm across the book to see what could possibly be lying on the other side. According to an article in the Daily Mail, when many children are arriving to nursery school, “they are apparently struggling to pick up basic fine-motor skills such as holding pencils, pens and crayons”. In being trained to do things on a screen, children become proficient in tapping, sweeping, and sliding things around, yet other fine muscles are no longer being given the same amount of time to develop.
As it is nearly impossible to have a perfectly regulated teaching system across the globe, children everywhere are learning the seemingly basic skill of reading differently. Some spend most of their time with books and others with iPads. Some get the advantage of a parent’s aid and others only get the majority of the attention when at school. Everywhere, different results are garnered.
As a result, some schools are not meeting the literacy standards for their children. In order to improve and help their students become the best that they can be, they thankfully have the opportunity to utilize literacy consultants to help train teachers how to teach reading. A balance of reading traditional printed books, writing, word work, and screen reading is essential to create successful independent readers. A process that changes school to school, people like Kathryn Starke are shaping the way in which reading is taught and in turn how reading will be viewed by an entire generation.
As a literacy consultant, Kathryn Starke effectively teaches teachers and parents how to effectively teach their child reading. With this skill, the results are huge and impressive. After working as a literacy consultant in Brooklyn, Kathryn’s school in New York is first place in their network in reading schools (Title 1). Her school in Charleston has 98% of 4th and 5th grade students reading on or above their grade level, an important feat. By using a combination of balanced literacy, reading, writing, word work, and technology to increase the components, Kathryn is able to work efficiently with both students and their teachers. As technology is rapidly becoming a part of the future and real world work experience, Starke wants children to be able to read and comprehend text on both real books and on the screen. To this end, screen time is included in schools, but usually no more that 15-20 minutes! Educators feel that quality based educational technology programs are effective, but by no means the end-all-be-all!
Reading is a skill that many take for granted. It took me a long time before I realized just how lucky I was to have the ability to travel world to world at merely the snap of my fingers and the opening of a few pages. However, the process within which we learn this talent varies from generation to generation and place to place. New technologies and advancements are always shaping the teachings and redirecting the “best” course and new studies either shed a good or bad light on those ideas. Depending on location, sometimes the teachings may not be successful and outside consult may be needed. However, one uniformly agreed upon point is that reading is in fact relevant, just as literacy is important.