While reading the news this evening, I happened upon a disturbing story about an all time American low. No, I’m not talking about Obama’s approval rating. SAT reading scores fell to the lowest level on record last year, and the combined reading and math scores were the lowest since 1995. Does this mean that American kids are getting duller or that our education system is failing us?
Sure, partially. But it’s really not as cut-and-dry as that. An interesting note is that 27% of SAT-takers in 2010 had a first language other than English, compared to 19% in 2000. What can we do better to accommodate America’s diverse demographics? Obviously what we’re doing now is not working. How do we help non-native English speakers learn to speak, read, and write English fluently? Or, alternately, how do we make our schools capable of successfully accommodating the multitudes of languages and cultures of American students?
According to the news story, more students took the test than before in 2010, thus “naturally” lowering the test scores. It’s great that more students are preparing for college… but does “more” naturally mean “worse”? That doesn’t sound like a very good explanation to me. It means that more students than ever before are simply unprepared for college. Another interesting fact presented in this study was that only 43% of test-takers reached the College Board’s “College and Career Benchmark.” What’s this, you ask? This measure of success determines how well a high school student will perform in college. For example, a student who scores 1550 or above on the SAT has a 65% likelihood of attaining a B-minus or better GPA during his or her first year of college. What percentage of SAT-takers hit that mark? Read it and weep: 43%. That is terrible!
Regardless of the reasons behind the sagging scores, they are a sad sign of the times. Our young adults are less prepared than ever to be viable citizens. Reading is fundamental to function in today’s world. Not everyone will spend their hours reading scientific journals and enjoying classic literature, but basic reading skills are vital. If one can’t read, job and aid applications are impossible to decipher. Street signs and maps don’t make sense. Reading reports and memos and writing intelligible responses are important in the business world. If a person has poor reading skills, they are at a disadvantage in the workplace. If one wants a good job in this competitive world, they must be literate!
To thoroughly understand what it’s like to be functionally illiterate, imagine that you woke up in a foreign country. You do not speak the language, nor can you read a word of it. To you, it looks like Greek! How do you get and hold a job? Who would hire you? Do you blame them for not hiring someone who can’t conduct business and communicate in their language? How do you purchase food or find yourself a place to live? If you do manage to obtain a roof over your head, you know what’s in your rent agreement? No, because you have no idea what it says. Your landlord could take advantage of you and you wouldn’t even know it. Everything around you is gibberish. You feel frustrated and confused. You feel hopeless and menial. This existence is hellish. Sending your kids into the real world without strong reading skills is like sending them into an unfamiliar land without a translator or any language skills.
Reading works our most important muscle, our mind. Learning new things educates us and keeps our mind sharp and strong throughout our lives. Reading allows us to discover new ideas and information. It helps us compare and contrast products or stocks before making important financial decisions. Reading keeps us current on important health and consumer information, potential dangers, and world events.
Reading plays a huge role in a person’s success from the time they are a small child. Studies have shown that students who had frequent exposure to books before preschool tend to do better in all academic areas than their peers who are not read to. Reading teaches kids how to put together thoughts and sentences. This, in turn, helps him learn to comprehend the information he reads. Strong reading skills from a young age are the foundation to a good education. Much of our academic career involves reading textbooks… if we can’t comprehend what we’re reading we’re not learning. Reading is the first building block, the foundation on which a house is built. Without it… you get the point. Reading comprehension is hugely important throughout our lives!
The more we read to our children, the greater their interest in learning to read will be. Their verbal skills will be better. Their vocabulary will improve. They will become more creative and knowledgeable. If children learn to read well and learn to utilize the breadth of information at their fingertips (Internet, libraries, books, schools, etc), then they will forever have access to all of the great discoveries, thoughts, inventions, and stories that await them. They will never lack entertainment if they appreciate a good book! There are many reasons why we must teach our children to read well. It doesn’t matter what your primary language may be, your race, or your socioeconomic status. Reading allows us to tackle to demands of society and the workplace. Reading makes us educated and allows us to acquire new information. Reading is great for personal fulfillment. Reading opens new worlds to us.
Today’s news regarding America’s sad SAT scores is a wakeup call—if you’re listening. We really can’t expect America’s schools to change overnight. It’s on your shoulders as a parent. If each parent made the commitment to lead their child down the road of enlightenment– and literacy– this country would be much better shape. Go read to junior. If he is struggling with his reading, get help. If you can’t help him, find a tutor who can work with him one-on-one. Do whatever it takes to give him the gift of literacy. One day he’ll thank you for it.
SAT Reading Scores Fall to Lowest Level on Record: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/09/14/sat-reading-scores-fall-to-lowest-level-on-record/?cmpid=cmty_fb_Gigya_SAT_Reading_Scores_Fall_to_Lowest_Level_on_Record