Illiteracy in America

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America, the most technologically advanced and affluent of all nations on the earth, seems to have an increasingly larger illiteracy rate every year. This has become and continues to be a critical problem throughout our society as we know it. According to the National Adult Literacy survey, 42 million adult Americans can't read; 50 million are limited to a 4th or 5th grade reading level; one in every four teenagers drops out of high school, and of the students who graduate, one in every four has around an 8th grade education. Why? You ask. This problem will never fix itself and will take quite a bit of time to overcome. We need to make sure that everyone is aware of the social problems, poverty and lack of family interaction that occurs everyday in many, if not all, communities throughout America

The most important factor that contributes to the outrageous statistics of illiteracy is that of poverty. Poverty is an issue that more and more of our nation's children are coming face to face with and the price they must pay is unbelievably high. Poverty is considered a major at-risk factor (Leroy & Symes, 2001). The term at-risk refers to children who are likely to fail whether it be at school or life in general because of their life's social circumstances. Some of the factors that may place these children at-risk are: dangerous neighborhoods; young, uneducated parents; unemployment; and inadequate educational experiences. Teachers need to be aware of the circumstances that their students face and be able and ready to help these children find a balance between the cultural values that they may have and values emphasized in school. By providing emotional support, modeling, and other forms of scaffolding, teachers can help students use their strengths, skills, and knowledge to develop and learn ( Marlowe and Page, 1999).

The difference in academic performance among children from different classes or groups is referred to as the achievement gap ( Pellino, 2006). Children that come from an area of middle or upper class are much more likely to achieve at higher levels than those of poverty. This is due to the social environment as well as the education that poor children receive in school. A good education is basically the only way out for those students raised in poverty and to achieve this, schools must value their students and prepare them to reach their full potential. An article by Haycock (2001), addressed issues related to the achievement gap and poverty through research conducted by The Education Trust. This study questioned both children and adults on what they suspect are causes of this achievement gap. One comment from a child stated, " What hurts us more is that you teach us less." Haycock concludes "...we take the students who have less to begin with and then systematically give them less in school." This just goes to show you how schools can be unfair and not care about those students coming from a low social class society.

Emotional trauma, whether it be within the household, school atmosphere, or the community in general, can have a large impact on the students motivation to learn. Feelings of being rejected, ignored and looked down upon can promote a negative self-status when it comes to learning in the classroom. Kelly (2006), found that students within a lower social class are less likely to participate in classroom discourse, and exert less effort on reading and writing assignments. These students are afraid to be active in the classrooms because of the emotional trauma this may cause them. They do not want to be humiliated in front of their peers but are also scared to ask their teachers for extra help, not wanting them to know that they have serious issues when it comes to reading and writing. In this case, children may not increase their efforts if they interpret failure as being personally deficient. This is when teachers need to work closely with their students to set goals and meaningful...
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