By the time my mother was in her late twenties, she had hundreds of children. At the end of her career, I’d guess thousands. You see, my mother taught 2nd grade for 32 years. Her impact in the world is hard to estimate, although we might assume that there are many adults now in the world accomplishing great things because Mrs. Barker taught them in 2nd grade to love to read, to have fun at school, to value education.
As a champion for adult and early childhood literacy, I cannot underscore how blessed we were to have this early emphasis on education as the natural path to a secure future. And while I did not appreciate it at the time, I have fond memories of doing homework most afternoons around the kitchen table while dinner cooked on the stove.
For so many and for a great variety of reasons, the home environment is not so closely tied to education. We know that what is good for our children is really good for us all, collectively. It is an obvious, and often stated, conclusion that children are our future. And, it is staggering that so many children enter our school systems already academically disadvantaged.
Research tells us that children who do not acquire a substantial speaking and listening vocabulary in the preschool years often never catch up to their peers who accomplish this goal. Frequently these children exhibit later reading difficulties. Research in emergent literacy also tells us that parents are the best teachers to get their children ready to learn to read. Children need parents to be reading role models on a daily basis. In fact, the education level of the parent, especially the mother, is one of the strongest predictors of a child’s success. Many parents and caregivers need to be taught how to develop critical pre-reading skills so that their children enter school ready to learn.
At Reading Connections, we combine all of these findings to provide adult literacy and family literacy programs, working to improve parents’ literacy so they can in turn read to their children and promote literacy in the home. We see phenomenal results as parents and caregivers begin to fully understand their important role, learn strategies for sharing stories and create a culture of learning in the home.
There is no more important focus for all of our community resources than the support and education of our children. We are failing them and the future if we do not succeed in educating every child. If we focus our resources on making sure our youngest, most vulnerable citizens get what they need, we are far more likely to be creating a future that is good for us all.
Jennifer Gore is the Executive Director of Reading Connections, Inc. For more information on community literacy programs, please contact Reading Connections at 336-230-2223.