The focus of literacy is usually on children and reading with most federal, state, and local literacy programs being geared to children. However little attention is given to adult literacy beyond local programs at adult learning centers or the public library and then the focus is often on functional literacy. With adult literacy more attention should be placed on developing other verbal communication skills that will allow parents with literacy issues to still be effective parents and advocates for their children. Few programs for adult literacy have the funding they need to set up and structure definitive and comprehensive reading programs for adults that will teach both reading and reading comprehension.
Sadly, illiteracy is a vicious web that snares the entire family. Parents and other adults who cannot read hide behind the walls of their embarrassment, missing out on opportunities to socialize with others. Isolation and loneliness may lead to depression and the destruction of self esteem that is already low and that they inadvertently pass on to their children. Without good reading or comprehension skills, verbal and written skills are lacking as well and parents cannot advocate effectively for their children outside the home.
When parents have poor literacy and reading skills it becomes difficult for them to communicate with their children or to read to them, as they fear that their children will think they are ‘stupid’. When children enter early education programs or the public school system, parents are unable to take an active role in performing the necessary at home and school related tasks that will support their child’s educational development. Parental participation in a child’s learning process is critical as a parent is the child’s first and most influential teacher and role model.
Teens and adults who have never been given the tools or tutoring to help improve their reading skills have never had the opportunity to explore the joy and knowledge that can be found inside the covers of a book. They cannot pass on that wonder or enjoyment of books and reading to their children. Sometimes, although a child has the advantages of reading programs in the public schools, without parents who have the literacy skills to nurture those skills and perpetuate the positive aspects of reading in the home, some children still fall behind.
Those children often do not like to read and do not see why reading is such a big deal. Once the child falls behind in school due to reading problems or a dislike of reading, the potential exists for that student to become illiterate and drop of school without graduating from High School. The environment of illiteracy is perpetuated when those young adults have children.
The family environment is further affected by adults who have poor reading skills as reading and reading comprehension are directly tied to verbal communication and written. Parents may not be able to communicate their ideas, instructions, rules, etc. to their children and may in turn verbally abuse their children out of frustration. It is also hard for adults to learn proper parenting skills and techniques if they cannot read, or lack reading comprehension skills.
Literacy and learning must begin in the home. Parents must be given the tools and opportunity to improve their own ability to read and communicate. It has been proven statistically that parents who can read at the proper level are much better at reading with their children, listening to their children read and helping them learn to read, and at nurturing their children’s reading development throughout their years in school.