This blog is not for the light-hearted or easily offended. If either one of those descriptions applies to you, i would suggest you start drinking before you read this blog. A sense of humor is suggested. If you don't have one that sucks for you … find one and get a life!

In which we need a reading revolution

Like millions of other people, my public persona is not a completely accurate picture of who and what I am.  I suppose you could say that I’m more than the sum of my parts.  At any rate, although I don’t become involved in many organizations without someone coaxing me into it, I have been involved with the United Way for a very long time.

 

One of the reasons was that when my father died 13 years ago, the director of the United Way of Greater Greensboro invited me out to lunch and asked me to step up to the plate and help make a difference in our community.  Normally, I shy away from such commitments but his case was so compelling that I agreed to become a member of the Women’s Initiative of the United Way.   I wanted to do more than just give money so I became involved with an organization known as Thriving at Three.

 

Thriving at Three is a group of independent organizations around this area that all have a mandate having something to do with women and children’s health and educational issues; everything from the “Center for New North Carolinians” to “Family Services of the Piedmont” to “Parents as Teachers.”  We were looking for ways to more efficiently address the needs of our community with a focus on these issues.

 

Today, we had the first Women in Philanthropy event.  This event was held to raise awareness of the United Way and the many organizations that Women’s Philanthropy helps support and fund and the speaker was Dr. Johnetta Cole.  Dr. Cole was the first African American Woman to helm Spelman College and she also lead Bennett College to a resurgence.  She is now is the head of the Smithsonian Museum of Black Anthropology.  Her speech was both engaging and inspiring and I’d like to share a few of her salient points with you.

 

Education is not just about making a living; it’s about learning to live a good life for both yourself and the people around you.  The biggest problem that the United States faces right now is education and the simple fact is that children can’t read.

 

LET EVERY CHILD READ AND READ WELL.  When children learn to read, their world opens up.  Learning to read BY YOURSELF is an extraordinarily empowering process.  One third of current fourth graders score below basic reading proficiency on standardized testing.  Worse than this, over 83% of low income fourth graders are below a proficient level and this is the richest country in the world.

 

Think this isn’t your problem?  Are you aware that a child that can’t read is set up for failure?  An inability to read is almost a guarantee that a child will never graduate and drop out of school.  Children who can’t read are almost always the children who cause trouble and have a bleak outlook.  However, we can change that.

 

Here are some examples of how small things can make a difference.  Dr. Cole told the story of a woman named Julia who had two small sons.  She went to “Reading Connections”, an agency who receives United Way Funding, and asked how she could make a difference in her children’s future.  They told her that she needed to read to them EVERY night.

 

She did and her own reading level soon went from a fifth to a seventh grade reading level.  When interviewed, she said that learning to read more proficiently changed her life, as she now feels more “connected” and “engaged” in her children’s lives.  Both of her boys are flourishing in school now.  It seems obvious that this would be the case but learning begins at home.

 

Story number two.  “Great Leaps” is a program run by “Communities in Schools” which is once again, an organization funded by the United Way.  It helped a third grader improve her own reading so much that she received a distinguished student award.  The end result?  She now reads to her younger pre-kindergarten brother daily and he is on track to also become a successful student.  She is also now teaching her mother how to speak English.  So learning to read can give back to the community on many levels.

 

I could go on and on with other examples but the point is that reading proficiently is a fundamental human right for each child.  We need to do more because first children learn to read and THEN, they read to learn.

 

If there is one single thing we can do to change the course of America it would be to improve education and to do that, we MUST teach our children, ALL OUR CHILDREN, to read.

 

Are you aware that the number of words a child hears in his youth is categorically related to his economic class?  Wealthier children are exposed to a huge number of words through reading and conversation.  There is a huge discrepancy between rich vs. working class vs. poor children.

 

We need to make a change.  We need a revolution, a reading revolution to teach every child to read and speak proficiently.  This isn’t addressed to just all the mothers out there.  This is our country, our future and each and every person has a responsibility to nurture our children.

 

After all, they’re our future.  I’m just one person trying to make a difference.  How about you?  Are you prepared to make a difference too?

 

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8 Comments

  1. AZ
    May 30, 2011

    Go Lynn–what a great blog–thank you —

    • Lynn
      May 30, 2011

      thanks so much…and HAPPY BIRTHDAY

  2. Melody
    May 30, 2011

    You know, even as a middle class family when my first was born, we benefited from Parents as Teachers. I was the oldest of 5 and did a lot of babysitting but was totally unprepared for kids of my own. Rachel helped me so much through that program and I was so appreciative I’ve supported United Way ever since. Thanks so much for a wonderful blog Lynn. Love it.

    • Lynn
      May 30, 2011

      Thanks…yeah, that’s a great program. Glad you liked the post

  3. julie Bernucci
    May 30, 2011

    Lynn, the happiest I ever was is when I fell in love and lived in Chapel Hill. The south is so gorgeous, and all the exciting fireflies, thunderstorms, poisonous snakes, exotic insects. I got hit in the head by a gigantic lunar moth in my basement apartment. My question to you is it is now fifteen years later and I live in a soggy place called Oregon. Has your weather changed? Has all the people moving into the Research Triangle after Forbes said it was the best place to live a few decades back wrecked the place with McMansions and strip malls? i loved it there so much. I love it that you blog from there.

    • Lynn
      May 30, 2011

      Well, of course we have large houses (I live in one actually) and strip malls but to me, NC is the same. I grew up here so i love it. Thanks for the comments girl

  4. Julie Bernucci
    May 30, 2011

    Why does your site cruelly tell me I’ve already said that when I damned well haven’t? I hate computer glitches more than telephone menus. I used to live where you do and loved it so much. Has your weather changed much in the last ten years? I lived in Chapel Hill about fifteen happy years ago. Do you get more tornado activity?

    • Lynn
      May 30, 2011

      well, this year there were tornados but not so much

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