Last week, I commented upon the power of relaxed, humanities-focused* conversation around good books and the impact of that conversation on children’s developing literacy. In this case, literacy includes all modes of engagement throughout life in clear and joyful mastery of print communication. The result of coming of age in families and schools with cultures of literacy is to become a lifelong reader. Children who grow up in families and/or schools where there is a culture of literacy excellence can, as lifelong readers and writers, predictably do well in school and later in their workplaces.
This week I was poking around the What Works Clearinghouse and the World’s Largest Lesson websites, looking for ideas and implementations of other strategies to help children become fully and confidently literate. Then, reflecting upon how stagnant reading scores are in schools that adopt these various programs that work, I returned to the reader’s life experiences.
Lifelong literacy, of course, should be the ultimate academic goal of any basic education that is provided for any citizen of the world. Its value is unquestionable for any student. It is definitely not simply of value for the currently popular “career or college readiness.” Though many schools and school systems these days claim that their curricula are designed to ensure success either in higher education or in a career or job, those outcomes occur (or don’t) beyond schools’ and families’ reach, long after the chicks are out of the nest.
So, if we want to rear today’s children to be successful in whatever they do after leaving formal education, we’ll need first to accept our complete ignorance about what K-12 graduates today might end up doing in 10 or 20 years. That’s at the far end of a dark tunnel to unknown futures. A significant portion of the careers that folks choose now won’t be needed. Another huge number of careers and occupations that most of us haven’t even thought of yet will be wonderful opportunities, open to new members.
Creating a literacy culture is such a natural priority-goal for schools. It opens a thousand doors to lives for the students to consider. Similarly, full literacy will equip young adults finding themselves in dead-end industries to find and access the necessary resources to refresh and retool themselves.
Today, we find ourselves in the midst of huge market and employment shifts (e.g., coal to solar, manufacturing to technology, family cars to pay-per-ride in self-driving cars). This could leave many students prepared for success in 2019 feeling left behind by even 2022. Those who will be able to adequately respond to these huge cultural shifts will either be immensely lucky, or well-prepared to find, study and individually respond to shifts in their environments. Those exceptions will be youngsters who can leverage their literacies for exploring new employment or business possibilities, and new personal assets and talents for making themselves increasingly more valuable. This will require that schools and families shift their focus from their kids doing well in school to an education for doing well throughout life.
I keep wondering when that shift in what educators and parents value in future-oriented schooling will begin.
*Humanities-Focused conversation: Discussion around the book-based themes of life (e.g. Conflict, Community, Fairness, Friendship, Greed, Interdependence, Perseverance, Sacrifice, etc.) instead of reading comprehension “skills.”
** From – Prime Time Family Reading Time – Scholar and Storyteller Support Manual. 2016-17. Prime Time, Inc. New Orleans, LA.