Going Beyond National Literacy Month
Literacy is one of the foundations that is important for the development of a child into adulthood. It is not only about the ability to read and write fluently, but it is also about improving self-esteem, building confidence, and preparing a child or young adult for meaningful interactions with the rest of society. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognizes literacy as a right:
Literacy is implicit in the right to education…The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the right to education as do other binding international conventions. ~~ UNESCO
UNESCO goes on to state that there are over 750 million illiterate adults around the world! Dr. Kirk Panneton, the regional executive and medical director of BlueShield of Northeastern New York, highlighted in an article titled “The Importance of Literacy In a Child’s Development” that “two-thirds of America’s children living in poverty have no books at home, and the number of families living in poverty continues to rise. Many libraries are being forced to close or reduce their operating hours. Children who do not have access to books or read regularly are vulnerable to falling behind in school.”
This is not to say that only people living in poverty are affected by literacy; we all are! I have personally known adults who have gone through the education system, who were not living in poverty, but somehow managed to slip through the cracks and are not able to read or write fluently post graduating from primary or secondary education. I think that if we find creative ways to encourage literacy, we will be champions of literacy in empowering children/young adults and helping to fulfill this basic human right.
So what are some ways that you can help to champion literacy in your community? Here I provide just six easy ways in which you can get involved. The first three ways focus on the wider community and the latter three points may be more individual but all are beneficial in helping to champion literacy. This list is not all inclusive and if you have any other suggestions please let me know in the comments section below.
Six Easy Ways to Be A Literacy Champion
- Story Time Events. Find out if there are any story time events that are happening in your community at which you can help out. Story time events are great to get parents involved with reading with their children. This may be offered for infants and toddlers as sing-along groups. Personally, I took both my children to sing-along groups and it was as much fun for me as it was for them. The groups at the time focused on nursery rhymes and learning through play.This helped to build their confidence, improve their social skills and of course they had fun! Check out local bookstores or other community organizations for this activity
- Reading Programs in Schools. Often times, with large classrooms (as can be seen in a majority of public schools) there are children who may get left behind in terms of literacy as the resources on the school may be limited and the teacher may not have time to sit one on one with this child/children. This is where YOU come in. Inquire from schools in your community if they have any reading programs where you may participate in supervising children reading to you. I understand that we all lead busy lives and have to work, but this could be done for 20 to 30 minutes on a lunch hour and the results will be amazing!
- Get Involved With The Library. Libraries are being forced to close down, not only due to financial constraints, but also manpower. Speak to your local library staff to find out how you can get involved. This could be something as simple as donating books or assisting to host a reading program. The local library filled such an important role for me and my children (even now that they’re pre-teens!) and for children to have access to one within their community is beneficial to their literacy skills.
- Encourage Children to be Authors. Ok, ok, they may not be on the best selling list but the kind of creative authorship that children will love. I think most of us would love to see our words in print. For very young children you could introduce activities such as cutting out words out of old newspapers or magazines to create a story or a poem. Bind it (a simple stapler would help) and get involved in creating a beautiful title page with the child’s name on it and voila! Your child is an author!
- Shopping and Literacy Go Hand in Hand. This is one thing my children loved to do. Getting your child to help you write the grocery list and checking it off as you go along seems such a simple thing but can be fun! Also helping them to read out aloud the ingredients on certain products help to empower them in that situation.
- Gift Books Not Toys. Although I’ve said that these latter points can be seen more on an individual scale in terms of the children you would come in direct contact with, this can be widened to a community event. During Christmas time especially, there are organizations (schools, children’s homes etc,) that encourage gift giving. One of the cheapest way to travel is via a book! Why not give the gift of such a travel mode to a child!
Call To Action!
So there you have it – six easy peasy ways in which you can become a champion of literacy and enrich and empower a child or young adult’s life, helping them to achieve their full potential. Please remember that if programs do not currently exist in your community, here’s your chance to truly shine and be the pioneer in starting one!
What ways are you involved in your community with championing literacy? Do you have any other suggestions? Please leave comments below and continue being the Champions I know you all can be.