Raising the Bar

“Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” – Abagail Adams

Despite the enormous disparities in the world today, can you visualize a converging world in which every country is equal in wealth, health and literacy?

In today’s technologically-based global economy, developing literacy skills is regarded as a key strategy for promoting national economic growth.  Literacy is linked to economic success as literacy levels help determine the kind of jobs people find, the salaries they make and their ability to upgrade their work skills.

Fiedrich & Jellene (2003) state that a substantial body of evidence indicates that literacy increases the productivity and earning potential of a population. An educated person earns more and has greater labour mobility. While analysing the impact of literacy UNESCO (2005) observes that literacy not only enhances the individuals earning, it also has positive influence upon the economic growth of a country.

If Canada raises its national literacy score by one percent, the country’s national income will increase by $32 billion, said Craig Alexander, a chief economist and vice-president of TD Bank Group. Presenting some sobering statistics, he said the International Adult Literacy Survey found 40% of youth and 50% of adults in Canada don’t have the desired amount of literacy to succeed in a knowledge-based economy.

Around the world, renewed emphasis is being placed by governments and employers on literacy for all people to enhance their employability, level of remuneration, health and community participation.

Statistician Hans Rosling uses animated statistics to help us visualize how far we have come over the past 200 years and that it is possible, in our lifetime, to experience a converging world in which every country is equal in wealth, health and literacy.

Do you think that literacy is the key to health, wealth, peace and economic growth?


The Power of Words

“Reading aloud to children can awaken their sleeping imaginations,improve their language skills and change their attitude toward books. That’s very important in a nation where so many children can’t read, won’t read or hate to read.”
–Jim Trelease, author, The New Read Aloud Handbook

In the fourth century, Augustine of Hippo walked in on Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, and found him . . . reading to himself:

When he read, his eyes scanned the page and his heart sought out the meaning, but his voice was silent and his tongue was still. Anyone could approach him freely and guests were not commonly announced, so that often, when we came to visit him, we found him reading like this in silence, for he never read aloud.
(The Confessions, c. 397-400)

Whether Augustine was impressed or appalled by the bishop’s reading habits remains a matter of scholarly dispute. What’s clear is that earlier in our history silent reading was rare.

But reading aloud in school and at home, often stops, or is greatly cut back, once a child learns to read on his own.  It is assumed to be suitable only for very young children.

Why?, wonders author Jim Trelease in his book The Read Aloud Handbook:

“Reading aloud is a commercial for reading. …Think of it this way: McDonald’s doesn’t stop advertising just because the vast majority of Americans know about its restaurants. Each year it spends more money on ads to remind people how good its products taste. Don’t cut your reading advertising budget as children grow older.”

Reading aloud to children helps them develop and improve literacy skills — reading, writing, speaking, and listening, Trelease adds. And since children listen on a higher level than they read, listening to other readers stimulates growth and understanding of vocabulary and language patterns.

Instructionally, reading aloud books, poems, articles, and short stories gives teachers and parents endless opportunities to highlight great writing and model reading strategies.

Reading aloud removes roadblocks to comprehension like unfamiliar vocabulary and contextualizes words the readers do not know. Listening to a fluent reader gives the listener a reading role model for their own oral reading skills.

Reading aloud builds community.  Shared experiences create memories that connect us to each other. Reading aloud offers unifying moments. While reading together, we laugh and cry together, comrades on the same journey.

We are never too young or too old to be read to.  What book are you reading out loud?

On the Same Page

“A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold.” — Henry Miller, The Books In My Life (1969)

Online book clubs are a place where book lovers can connect online to meet, chat and share news and views about books.

Book Club: Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

This month in the Literacy Forum we are reading Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda.  It was 9 months on the Canadian bestseller list.  Head to your local library, bookstore, or Costco and borrow/buy this book and join the discussion!

Eve’s Lit Picks is a virtual gathering of avid readers that discusses new topics and books.

You might think that reading groups are simply an arena for book worms to indulge in their favourite passion or for you to have enjoyable argument about your favourite story or characters with like-minded individuals…but book clubs actually offer more lifelong benefits than you realize:

  • Everyone knows that reading expands your horizons and book clubs help to do this at an even greater level, with the in-depth discussions and assimilation of different viewpoints all contributing to increasing your knowledge and appreciation of the world around you.
  • Joining a reading group can also help to extend your reading, as you’ll be tempted to try different types of books that you might not otherwise have chosen by yourself. Many people can become accustomed to the comfort of reading in a favorite genre and may not realize how much they might actually enjoy an altogether different type of book, until they are persuaded to try by other members of the reading group.
  • Despite not having a formalized classroom structure, reading groups are actually a fantastic place to promote learning. Discussing books helps to reinforce things in your mind and enable you to retain information better.
  • Book clubs enable you to appreciate otherwise “dry” topics within the context of an involving story – for example, reading books set in certain periods allow you to learn more about history, without the dread of boring facts and dates.
  • Book clubs can also be great ways to travel and appreciate other cultures – not only through the books themselves but also through any members with different backgrounds. And discussing these differences helps everyone to understand them by placing them within a larger context.
  • Participating in reading group discussions does wonders for your communication skills, teaching you to listen to different points of view and different ways of expression, as well as “discuss and disagree” without resorting to emotional arguments.
  • Book clubs are a great way to start practicing expressing your opinions to an audience or summarizing information and presenting it in a coherent and engaging way.
  • Book clubs can help you appreciate books that you had rejected in your childhood or within the confines of your school curriculum, as the imminent discussion motivates you to read with more purpose and attention.
  • For those with writing aspirations, book clubs can be a wonderful breeding ground for ideas as well as provide the motivation for you to pen your own literary masterpiece. Listening to other people’s assessment of a book and their discussion of likes and dislikes about plot, character and style, can help enormously in your quest to become a better, more successful writer.
  • If you are prone to depression, a reading group can keep you engaged with others.
  • Stimulating your brain cells may help to protect against or delay memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease, studies suggest.

Come read with us!

Savvy Seniors

Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Moses Znaimer, coined the term ZOOMER to describe the highly motivated, energetic, well trained and non-retiring senior – a “boomer with ZIP.” In fact the senior population across Canada is booming. Canadian Zoomers comprise about 44 percent of the population. They are more educated, more wealthy, more diverse, more tech savvy and more politically engaged than ever before.

Today’s savvy senior views retirement as an opportunity for learning, teaching and global outreach.  Gerontologist Sandra Cusack says “we can actually improve our mental function and memory to the end of life.” Staying engaged and trying stimulating new things helps keep brains healthy and fit.

The Leisure Centre in my community offers free drop-in classes for seniors. Yoga, photography, line-dancing, crib…. Lifelong learning can be a blast. What are you learning?

It is never too late to start a learning journey.  The SFU Lifelong Learners Society offers seniors a vast choice of courses to satisfy a thirst for knowledge. Springing up are campus-based housing units for adults age 55 and older, interested in living in a community of active lifelong learners affiliated with an academic institution.