Where should literacy start—at home or in school?

13 Aug

According to Zero to, “Literacy often begins early, long before children encounter formal school instruction in writing and reading. … Many young children begin to learn about writing and reading well before they start elementary school. ”

In addition, says, “Reading is an addiction that parents should encourage well before their baby’s first birthday. … When you read to children, they’re getting your full attention, and that’s what they just love. Nothing—no TV show or toy—is better than that. Reading to babies is also a great way to immerse them in the sounds and rhythms of speech, which is crucial for language development.”

We also hear a lot in the media about Finland’s PISA ranking, and how great their public schools are, but where does literacy start in Finland for most children? says, “Finland has a completely transparent alphabet code and most parents teach their children to read pre-school, as it’s easy to do.”

In addition, Stanford University psychologist Brian Wandell said, “Historically, people have assumed that all children’s brains come adequately equipped and ready to learn to read,” just as with learning to speak, which occurs naturally without much training.  But, he said, “Sometimes, there is a natural distribution of capabilities. Reading is probably the hardest thing we teach people to do in the education system.  There are some kids who are just going to have a hard time.” – The DANA – Your gateway to responsible information about the brain.

But, surprise, surprise: “People who read ‘lots’ and fiction ‘lots’ outscore those who read ‘lots’ but fiction only ‘somewhat’ or ‘not much’. This is because a wider range of vocabulary is typically used in fiction than in non-fiction writing.”  –

However, the mandated Common Core language arts and literacy standards puts more emphasis on reading nonfiction even though we know that fiction uses a wider range of vocabulary and leads to a higher level of literacy and a higher level of literacy equal college and career readiness.

And that is why I have a problem with the term “school to prison pipeline”, and the corporate education reform movement that blames only teachers for children who are not college and career ready starting as early as kindergarten and the impossible NCLB mandate that 100% of 17-18 year olds be college and career ready before high school graduation—no country in the world has achieved this at any time, even Finland.

If there is a prison pipeline, it starts in the home and not in the schools and it is linked to literacy, because “75% of prison inmates are illiterate.” – Invisible

The BBC reports, “that falling behind at the very beginning of school can be the starting point for permanent disadvantage.”

Therefore, parents and/or guardians, if you want to help your child to be college and career ready and have a better chance to stay out of prison, start reading to your children early and don’t wait until kindergarten for teachers to do your job for you. Parenting is more than just giving birth, feeding the child and providing a TV to entertain the kids in addition to a place to sleep. Instead of letting your children become addicted to TV and texting, get them hooked on books before they start kindergarten. In fact, reading is a healthy addiction that every child should have starting at an early age.


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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8 responses to “Where should literacy start—at home or in school?

  1. Norah

    August 15, 2015 at 02:52

    I definitely agree that a love of reading is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child. Reading to children every day from birth, if not before, gives them a great start. I hadn’t heard the comparison between fiction and non-fiction word use that you mention. It’s interesting. I think most books read to young children are fiction, though I recommend that children be exposed to non-fiction texts too. I think it is scary and unnecessary making the connection between reading and prison to most parents. I would rather paint the positive rather than the negative picture but definitely agree with the importance of reading. Maybe the connection needs to be made explicit for some parents to take more notice. Developing literacy is, as you say, not just a task for the schools, but for the families and the whole of society.

    • Lloyd Lofthouse

      August 15, 2015 at 08:47

      Yes, the connection does need to be made to all parents, but—and I know that you didn’t mention this but I can’t resist a chance to bash the corporate education RheeFormers—that isn’t going to happen with the use of high stakes standardized tests linked to David Coleman and/or UK Pearson’s Common Core Standards that are supported by Bill Gates money and used to rank teachers and schools and then fire the teachers and close the schools.

      Heck, I’ve also read that the RheeFormers want to take over all the public libraries in the U.S. too and turn them into profitable ventures instead of non-profits that are free, but only after all the free roads and highways that were built with public funds are handed over to corporations so they can set up toll booths. Then to get the the corporate, for-profit libraries, people will have to pay a toll to drive on the roads to reach the library where they will have to buy a ticket to get in. I understand this is already well underway in Florida. I read a comment from a teacher in Florida who said all the roads that were once free now cost about $10 a day just to drive from home to work and teachers’ pay has fallen flat or reversed there. I think it is a safe bet that if the people start to walk to avoid paying to drive on the roads, then the corporations will set up toll booths on the sidewalks and charge by the step—maybe a penny for each step. Take a hundred steps and you own a dollar that will all be automatically subtracted from your back account. Eventually, laws will be passed that turn people into indentured workers when their bank account balance goes from black to red where they have to work for nothing to pay off all the debts that come from driving, walking and reading. The RheeFormers haven’t worked out how to control how people will eat and drink yet but I’m sure they are working on it but the negotiations between the fast food corporations are not going well and might result in sanctions.

      Then there is the fact that the Corporate Reformers are also slowly taking over the job of running the prisons and that the private-sector for-profit prisons are already known for increasing time served for such things as forgetting to put the cap back on your toothpaste tube or not brushing your teeth at all. I read that some inmates in private sector prisons end up with extended sentences for not eating everything on their plastic food tray.

      • Norah

        August 16, 2015 at 04:22

        That’s a bleak picture. I hope you’re joking, but I get a strong sense you are not!

      • Lloyd Lofthouse

        August 16, 2015 at 08:31

        You are correct. I wasn’t joking. Everything I’ve said is well documented from reputable sources. The movement behind this started out of the University of Chicago several decades ago and they are called neo-liberals who are followers of Milton Friedman’s economic thinking. Their goal is to abolish labor unions and privatize for profit all public sectors even the military. There are two other political groups that are causing as much damage as the neo-liberals: the neo-conservatives, that also originated out of the University of Chicago, and the libertarian movement funded by two of the four Koch brothers. The Koch brothers also funded the U.S. Tea Party and the anti-global warming deniers who want to shut down the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and lift all restrictions on CO2 emissions and water, air and soil pollution. Monsanto and several of the largest oil companies are involved in countering environmental pollution restrictions too.

      • Norah

        August 17, 2015 at 03:55

        We need more like you to ensure the message gets out and informs the people. It’s a very frightening picture.

      • Lloyd Lofthouse

        August 17, 2015 at 08:40

        Thank you. I’m not the only voice speaking out—mostly through the internet, and it is tragic that the so-called free media isn’t doing its job to educate voters. The U.S. Bill of Rights protects the for-profit, private-sector media from govenrment, but it isn’t protected from the greed and corruption of the private sector. A free media does not equal honest and balanced reporting. In fact, with 90% of the national, traditional media owned by six major corporations, what we hear/read in the news is often what some CEO who is a very wealthy white man who grew up in a wealthy, well-educated family totally out of touch with reality wants us to read to support an agenda and not fairness.

      • Norah

        August 18, 2015 at 15:59

        I know! Digging the truth out from the rubble can be a difficult thing.

  2. Lloyd Lofthouse

    August 18, 2015 at 16:28

    And there a lot of rubble – a big huge pile of it paid for to confuse.


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