12 October 2009
Illiteracy affects one in seven U.S. adults. And those 30 million adults are a big reason why 33 percent of fourth-graders are unable to read at grade level. In turn, the work force is ill-equipped to compete in a 21st century economy, and communities are at risk. The problem affects multiple generations, that’s why it needs a multi-generation solution – family literacy.
The National Center for Family Literacy has been pioneering education solutions for 20 years. It continues to research and implement new programs and materials to attack this problem.
NCFL recently has been featured on “CBS Sunday Morning” and in PARADE magazine.
NCFL experts have helped more than 1 million families improve their education through more than 6,000 sites across the country. As National Family Literacy Day is celebrated on Nov. 1, NCFL can provide a national perspective on the trends, causes of illiteracy and solutions, including:
• Literacy’s impact on society, competitiveness and education results;
• Effective early literacy;
• Help for struggling readers;
• Working with ESL/immigrant families;
• Technological literacy;
• Education trends;
• Adult literacy; and
• How illiteracy complicates other issues, such as health-care reform (low literacy increases health-care costs by $32 billion to $58 billion), the economy (unemployment is 61 percent higher for adults) and personal finances (inability to analyze loan and credit card agreements).
Experts available for interviews include:
• Sharon Darling, president & founder of the National Center for Family Literacy, which pioneered the concept of intergenerational learning: “Although schools are a key factor in a child’s ability to learn, we must look beyond the classroom to achieve success for two reasons. Children spend five times as much time outside the classroom as they do in school, and a parent’s education and income are the biggest factors in determining a child’s success in schools,” Darling said.
“As a result, a multigenerational approach is crucial to achieving meaningful literacy results. Children who participate in family literacy programs demonstrate significant gains in oral language skills and score higher on standardized tests. They also are rated by their teachers as more likely than their peers to succeed in school. This philosophy and its results have implications for communities, schools and policy-makers.”
• Dr. Deborah Hasson, director of the Hispanic Family Learning Institute and co-director of Toyota Programs for the National Center for Family Literacy: “The statistics seem overwhelming: The nation’s largest and fastest growing minority is the only one that has experienced a decline in literacy in the last 15 years,” Hasson said. “In turn, Hispanic dropout rates are four times higher than those for whites. However, the dropout rate for Hispanic students who speak English well is only16 percent, compared to 59 percent for Hispanics who do not.
“The key is to focus on a strength of the Hispanic culture – family. Pilot programs across the country demonstrate that intergenerational learning is the solution. Hispanic participants in NCFL’s Toyota Family Literacy Programs are increasing their reading levels, and children are being rated higher than their peers in overall academic performance and other key indicators.”
• Emily Kirkpatrick, vice president of the National Center for Family Literacy, who is leading the organization’s technology efforts: “We take for granted that children today are digital natives, but in reality, they are being prepared for the future by their parents, their teachers and their community leaders -- many of whom are digital immigrants,” Kirkpatrick said. “We must help parents bridge the widening gap between adults and children’s understanding of technology. Those two generations must learn about technology together, so parents can be effective teachers and advocates to ensure that their children are literate in technology and prepared for the 21st century workforce.”
Free materials and tips can be found at www.famlit.org.
The National Center for Family Literacy is the worldwide leader in family literacy. More than 1 million families have made positive educational and economic gains as a result of NCFL’s work, which includes training more than 150,000 teachers and thousands of volunteers. For more information, visit www.famlit.org.
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