{ March 2000} 

The Kiddies are Getting All the Literacy Dollars!

By Juanita Stanley, Executive Director
California Literacy, Inc., Pasadena, California, USA

As we say out here in the West, I have a burr under my saddle.

I am very tired of adorable kiddies getting all the press, all the attention, all the warm fuzzies and, yes, all the dollars, to eradicate illiteracy. The single largest budget item in our state budget is Education. And by "Education" the inference is the K-12 system.

I understand the argument that "children are our future." And I agree. It is appropriate to spend large amounts of time and resources to make sure that kids learn to read. But--what about all those parents out there who have difficulty reading? Even some family literacy programs only show the cute kiddies in their brochures--never any parents or caregivers. What are those grown-ups, chopped liver? People with low reading skills are raising kids--and many times continuing the cycle of illiteracy with poor pre-reading skills, hereditary learning disabilities, and poor homework support.

Why do most celebrities, company representatives, spokespersons, politicians, etc. need to be seen with cute, cuddly kids? Little kids are not supposed to be totally literate--literacy is an acquired skill, which requires instruction over time. After all, we don't expect a toddler to run a marathon just because he or she has learned to walk. In fact, it often requires that a child be over 10 years old (in 4th grade) before the fact that there is a reading problem becomes evident--particularly to parents.

The adults we help look like everybody else--no wounds, no ragged clothes, no sign of starvation. That doesn't mean they don't need help to overcome their reading problems. They did not ask to be illiterate or learning disabled or born in a country (or neighborhood) where English wasn't spoken. But the issue is here, among adults, today--and growing.

Remember, kids don't cry when they learn to read--adults do.

Literally Literacy