Reading and Today’s Communication
Linda says, “My vision is to move beyond literacy to the restoration of the spoken word in all its splendor and to introduce children to the power and magic of creative expression. With texting and tweeting, language and the use of real words is eroding the fabric of communication. I want my books to encourage articulate expression and a love of language and real communication between parents and their children.”
Several times I’ve addressed a piece of this problem from different angles. I’d like to tackle it head on today; not as a lecture, but as an exploration of problems and possible solutions.
Watching media offerings for children today has changed drastically from fifty years ago. PBS has done its part to put education, reading, thinking and learning to the forefront of early TV viewing for children. It’s the other viewing choices that rattle some parents and teachers.
For never doubt it, the current influence on modern speech and learning expectations has shifted and not in a good way. If you have doubts, stand/sit in any mall anywhere and simply listen to the conversations of those around you. While you’re there, watch the behaviors, too.
Language lies at the core of society in every aspect. When individuals are encouraged to reduce the length of communications to a few handfuls of characters to say something that might take 100 words verbally, they are being encouraged to create a type of written sign language; a sign language made up of smilies, animates, anagrams, and sprinkled with individual letters that create shorthand.
This shorthand doesn’t stop with twitter. Kids are using this shorthand verbally, too, among themselves. Oh, I know. When I was a kid, we had pig Latin. Much later we went through the “Valley” phase, and so on. Each generation has its own form of communications. You say “It’s always been that way.” You’re right. It has.
Until now, that is. This is how I see it, and I think it’s what Linda was alluding to. With current technology, we communicate more than ever before in history and perhaps saying less of value. We’re also doing it in a shorter form of written communications that crosses generational lines, not just here, but globally. What affects us and our generations also affects those elsewhere.
However, for the first time, according to recent reports filed by various government and professional agencies, the U.S. has fallen behind in education (check our literacy rates against some third world countries). Our reading, writing, and other skills have diminished, not because our children are no longer bright and inquisitive, but because our educational system is broken.
I keep hearing about budgets being slashed. Yeah, and? That’s my reaction. When I see the salaries and bonuses of some districts’ sports programs, I want to scream. I’ll not go into that here other than to say that for many schools, legitimate needs, like learning materials, get cut so that sports is protected. Music and arts programs get sliced out of the academic pie because they show no demonstrative benefit and are a drain on the district’s resources. I’ve actually heard that one used in person.
No one bothers to mention that kids in those programs have smaller drop-out rates, are better students, better citizens, continue on to college, etc. down the line. And that’s only one example.
So, what, you’re asking, are the solutions? Many solutions begin with the involvement of the communities surrounding the schools. When citizens are more interested in the classroom than the athletic field, good things happen that cost the schools nearly nothing. Why don’t local businesses get together in the spring to sponsor a writing contest for each class in the district? It wouldn’t cost much for a small trophy for the lucky winner of each class and a couple of ribbons for the runner’s up.
How about a reading done for assembly that showcases the abilities of students from the varying classes to writing stories, poems, essays, etc? Make it school/district wide and invite the public to attend? How about having each class write a short play to be performed before the other classes of the same grade level?
The point is that people, especially retired people, would volunteer in schools as mentors, tutors, helpers, storytellers, etc. if they knew they could make a difference and be welcomed. Budgets are tight. Money is running out. Caring about education, however, doesn’t cost a dime. Mostly it costs only time.
Perhaps that item, time, is really what’s become in short supply. Everything has to be instantaneous, arriving and leaving ever faster. If you don’t believe me, pay attention to your own response when the net’s down or you’re waiting for a return e-mail and you start getting upset after only 10-15 minutes. Think about that and snail mail, which was in vogue a few short years ago.
Then think about what we’re expecting our children to learn, assimilate, regurgitate, and output every day, not just in school, but beyond it as well. They’re expected to be little super-people, learning ever more in a shorter period of time and the older generation can’t grasp the reason why they’re falling further and further behind other countries in standards.
Might we not take a good look at our own expectations as a society to discover why our tots are parading as beauty contestants rather than learning to read, or thumbing video games rather than building rockets or planes in the back yard. The messages we give them and their responses shouldn’t surprise anyone, really.
It’s up to us to change the dynamic of education by focusing on what we can do with less technology before worrying about how to use every ounce of tech available in every classroom. Somehow, I just can’t believe that a kindergartner really needs to use a calculator to learn their numbers or do sums. But, hey, that’s just me.
Linda wanted everyone to know that the little kitty who peeks over the top of the book is a feature of all of her books. Peeking Kitty is her brand and the name of her publishing company. He is not a character in any of my stories, but he does appear on every page. He exemplifies the Spirit of Linda’s writing. He exemplifies the quiet confidence kids gain when they discover the power of words and self expression.
These hard-backed Peeking Kitty books are created to inspire, delight and encourage the love of reading and the magic of words. Readers can hunt for the kitty on every page, where he brings his curiosity, the excitement of exploration and a desire to see what comes next to the reading experience. In stories about everyday things and experiences, Kitty invites you to question conventional wisdom, expand imagination and gain a new perspective.
I hope everyone will take an opportunity to see what you can do to help education along. Volunteer to read, tutor, assist. All it costs is time.
Tomorrow I’ll have Peg Finley with me in the writer’s chair. Please stop by and say hello or just read about Peg’s adventure in writing. You won’t be sorry.
Until then, a bientot,