When was the last time you overheard teenagers having a conversation on the train or bus, or just hanging out anywhere in the city? The next time you ate on the train, listen in. Do not be obvious! But listen in. The reason I ask is because the last time I overhead young people converse I could not understand a word they were talking about. The words they use, the grammar was hard on the ears. I wonder to myself what was the last book any of them read? It seems to me, there is an encouragement to be ignorant. That is where bliss is found. Are our young people afraid to come across intelligent or are they really that dumb?
Working with preschoolers, I have seen first hand the effort made to prepare children for the years ahead. The emphasis placed on math and literacy is paramount. In a good daycare center or preschool program literacy begins quite early. Children are exposed to verbal and written communication early in the program. Almost everything in the classroom is labeled so not only does the child learn what an object is but how it is spelled and how to recognize it. Stories are red and reread. Children are encouraged to retell stories. They are taught about the storybook and it’s parts. What is an author, who is the characters, what happens first what do they think, will happen next? Beginning reading, starts and children are exposed to family words and so on. So what happens, what goes wrong, why do children loose interest in reading?
The other day I heard on the local news that 80% of New York City school graduates are unable to read. Why did they graduate? I personally, by observation of some of the children I have seen grownup; schools are teaching how to take test and not much of anything else. Where did we lose Johnny, where has that want to learn gone. 80% of high school graduates cannot read? Two million New Yorkers can be described as functionally illiterate. Which is 25% of the population. I have heard teenagers talk about teachers saying, “I’m gonna get paid if you learn or not.” Why? I’ll tell you why, we have to stop putting all the blame teachers, and they are carrying all the responsibility. What about the parents. Parents have to take responsibility for some of this. So many parents are not talking to their children, finding out what’s going on. What the children did in school. They have left their children on the doorsteps of the schools and forfeited their responsibility. They are not their children’s advocates. I’ll tell you whom, Johnny need to care.
Literacy plays an essential role in the development of teenagers. With that said, if our teenagers re literate, is it then safe to say they are underdeveloped? Could that be the reason for the amount of fights and brawls being posted on social media? Are we unleashing a bunch of underdeveloped, illiterate hooligans upon society, thereby contributing to the destruction of society? Socializing has become the end all and be all in the life of a teenager. Facebook how many non-friend friends do they have. Instagram, how many people like their pictures? Who like them who’s texting them. To the point where laws have to be made to stop texting and driving. Now we need sidewalks for texters and non-texters. This has led to the break down of the written word, so I can see why Johnny cannot read actual words.
Illiteracy is the steppingstone to poverty. The highest level of poverty is in the Bronx at 35% and the highest percentage of non-grads. Staten Island has the lowest percentage of 30%. Living in poverty and the lowest percentage of non-graduates, 12% of non-grads. Brooklyn is somewhere in the middle, Queens is close behind (www.literacypartners.org)
Let us not give up on our children, build schools so that classrooms are not so full. Try to make learning fun and interesting. Allow our children to read what the enjoy reading. Start teaching again. Maybe we need to make parental participation mandatory up to the twelfth grade. The reality is if Johnny’s parents cannot read what are the chances they would be caring enough if she could not read. If Johnny has to bring money home because her parents cannot afford to simply live. Reading I the last thing on her mind. Money and survival is all thats on her mind. The psychological make up of a generation is not going to change. The work has to begin with the younger children the preschoolers and the kindergardeners.