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Tag Archives: the importance of literacy

Where should literacy start—at home or in school?

According to Zero to Three.org, “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, Parents.com 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? Stuff4Educators.com 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 Foundation.org – 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.”  – Economist.com

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 Children.org

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.

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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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We owe it to our children to combat Poverty and Racism in the United States

An older friend of mine who is in his 80’s once told me that he’d rather be wealthy and unhappy than poor and hungry. Then there is the old curse of racism.

Racism exists when one ethnic group dominates, excludes, or seeks to eliminate another ethnic group on the basis that it believes are hereditary and unalterable, and in history there is no end to examples of racism. To this day, examples of racism may be found in Europe, Australia, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, North American, etc.

For instance, the persecution and murder of millions of Jews by Hitler’s Nazis during World War II, and the list of ethnic cleansings can be traced back to 350 AD in ancient China when 200,000 people with racial characteristics such as high-bridged noses and bushy beards were slaughtered. The history of racism through ethnic cleansings is so long and brutal, it might make you sick to your stomach if you click on the link in this paragraph and scroll through the list.

In addition, a long history of racism exists for the United States. American natives, Asian Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Black or African Americans, and even Whites have been victims of racism/discrimination. For Whites, the Mormons and Jews have faced persecution in the United States, and Smithsonian.com says,  “The idea that the United States has always been a bastion of religious freedom is reassuring—and utterly at odds with the historical record. … The real story of religion in America’s past is an often awkward, frequently embarrassing and occasionally bloody tale that most civics books and high-school texts either paper over or shunt to the side.”

The Chinese, for instance, are the only minority in the U.S. to have had national legislation passed that was one of the most significant restrictions on free immigration in US history, prohibiting all immigration of Chinese laborers. It was called the Chinese Exclusion Act, and it was signed into law on May 6, 1882, and wouldn’t be repealed until 1943. In fact, Asian Americans have been denied equal rights, subjected to harassment and hostility had their rights revoked and imprisoned for no justifiable reason, physically attacked, and murdered.

The Latino community has also faced discrimination, and according to Pew Research.org, Latinos are the 2nd most discriminated against ethnic group after African-Americans. Sixty-one percent of Latinos say discrimination against Hispanics is a “major problem.”

For Black or African Americans, Pew Research.org reports that 88% of Blacks felt that there was discrimination against African Americans. Even 57% of Whites think that African Americans are discriminated against.

If you remember what I said in my first paragraph, you might have an idea of where I’m going with this, but don’t read me wrong. I think we must always be on guard and protest acts of racism and discrimination, but if history teaches us anything, we know that racism is always going to be around in one form or another, and I think it would be easier to face this curse in strength: educated, literate, and middle class or wealthy and not feeling helpless because of illiteracy, poverty and hunger.

In a previous post Suspensions and Expulsions in the US Public Schools—what does that 3.3 million really mean, it’s obvious that I failed to reach some readers with what I meant to say instead of what they thought I wrote. Some readers of that post became angry and some accused me of having racist tendencies, and then I was locked out and shunned by one group.

I haven’t changed my mind. I still think that poverty and/or single parent homes are the main culprit behind the number of suspensions and expulsions in the public schools, and I pointed this out and provided links to the research in my other post about suspensions and expulsions to support what I wrote.

While racism might be a factor in some of the suspensions and expulsions of Black or African-American children, there was no evidence that this was the case for Asian-Americans and Hispanic/Latinos—both minorities with a long history of being the victims of racism and discrimination—and even if it were true that some suspensions of Black or African Americans was motivated by racism, what could we do to identify individual cases and stop this unacceptable behavior?

CHART UPDATE with two more columns on Jan 10

But we can make an effort to reduce the suffering caused by poverty and illiteracy, and there are proven methods that work. For instance, a transparent, national, early childhood education program that would be managed by the democratic public schools where we’d have a better chance to keep an eye on these programs working with our youngest and neediest children to make sure racism, segregation and discrimination doesn’t rear its evil, horned face behind a wall of secrecy.

The foundation of a strong middle class is access to education for every child beginning in the first few years of life. Sadly, millions of children in this country are cut off from quality early learning. Children in countries as diverse as Mexico, France, and Singapore have a better chance of receiving preschool education than do children in the United States. For children in the U.S. who do attend, quality varies widely and access to high-quality programs is even more limited in low-income communities where it’s needed most.

We already know from decades of evidence that the education reform movement’s opaque and secretive corporate Charter schools are contributing to a resurgence of segregation. This is wrong, and it will lead to more racism and discrimination—instead of less.

If we bicker with each other over how many—difficult to prove and even harder to stop—suspensions of Black or African American children in the public schools is influenced by racism, we are allowing ourselves to get sidetracked from dealing with a challenge we can do something about, and that is to combat poverty and illiteracy.

Like my 80+ year-old friend said but with a revision to his thinking, “I’d rather face racism from a position of strength with an education, a high level of literacy and in the middle class instead of living in poverty, illiterate, feeling angry and powerless.”

UPDATE on 1-11-15

One more thing—looking at that chart, I have to ask this question: With the obvious racism and discrimination that Asian Americans faced and still face, how did they achieve those numbers beating out even the Whites in every column? In addition, the Asian-American unemployment rate is the lowest of all racial groups. The Asian American divorce rate by race is also the lowest at 8% while Whites are the highest at 27%, African Americans are 22% and Hispanics are 20%. There’s more I could add to this list, but that’s in another post I wrote at https://crazynormaltheclassroomexpose.com/2013/05/11/what-parenting-method-works-best/

  • In addition read this post on Marie Corfield’s blog about the segregationist practices of New Jersey’s Charter Schools.

UPDATE on 1-20-15

AARP Bulletin asked, “What can be done to make black youth less vulnerable and fully integrated into mainstream America?” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar replied, “The main problem is the reluctance to educate black Americans. Since the Civil War, people have been indifferent to it—including black Americans.”

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

Runner Up in Biography/Autobiography
2015 Florida Book Festival

Crazy-is-Normal-a-classroom-expose-200x300

Honorable Mentions in Biography/Autobiography
2014 Southern California Book Festival
2014 New England Book Festival
2014 London Book Festival

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

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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Starting school at age seven—some claim—would be better: Part 4 of 5

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What factors in America’s Black community/subculture play an important role that makes it difficult to achieve functional literacy?

Poverty Rate by Race/Ethnicity [Source: Kaiser Family Foundation]:

Black: 35%
Hispanic: 33%
Other: 23%
White: 13%

Single Parent Households by race [Source: Kids Count.org]

Black: 67%
American Indian: 53%
Hispanic or Latino: 42%
White: 25%
Asian or Pacific Islander: 17%

The National Center for Fair and Open Testing says, “The powerful impact of poverty on literacy development has been well documented. Children of poverty, in addition to the obvious problems they face, have very little access to reading material ; they have fewer books in the home, inferior public libraries, inferior school libraries, and inferior classroom libraries, (e.g. Duke, 2000; Neuman and Celano, 2001). This means, of course, that they have fewer opportunities to read, and therefore make less progress in developing literacy.”

 “Children from broken families [meaning one-parent families. I understand from my research that the term broken families is not politically correct in the United States at this time] are nearly five times more likely to suffer damaging mental troubles than those whose parents stay together, Government research has found. It also showed that two parents are much better than one if children are to avoid slipping into emotional distress and anti-social behaviour. The findings say that children’s family backgrounds are as important—if not more so—than whether their home is poor, workless, has bad health, or has no one with any educational qualifications.” Source: Daily Mail.co.uk

Continued on September 27, 2013 in Starting school at age seven—some claim—would be better: Part 5 or return to Part 3

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to kill Americans.

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Starting school at age seven—some claim—would be better: Part 2 of 5

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Why can’t America just copy what Finland does in its public education system?

Because Finland’s population of 5.2 million is almost 100% white and 79% belong to the same religion, the Lutheran Church—and I’m sure that this has something to do with family values being similar and not as diverse as in the United States. [Note: In America there are more than 310 different religions and denominations and almost 30 million do not belong to any religion]

For a fair comparison of Finland to the United States [with a population of 316.7 million], we should turn to Wisconsin where the population is 88.2% white.

Why did I pick Wisconsin? Because its on-time high school graduation rate is 90.7% compared to the national average of 77.9%.

There are also other states that compare to Finland. For a few examples:

Vermont’s population is 95.4% white and it has an on-time high school graduation rate of 89.6%.

Minnesota is 86.5% white and it has an on-time high school graduation rate of 87.4%

North Dakota is 90.1% white, and it also has an on-time high school graduation rate of 87.4%

Iowa is 92.8% white and it has an on-time high school graduation rate of 85.7%

Now let’s look at the state with the lowest on-time high school graduation rate in America—Nevada has a white population of 77.1% [below the national average of 77.9%]. Hispanics/Latinos make up 27.3% of Nevada’s population and 8.9% are Black or African American.  And Nevada’s on-time high school graduation rate was 56.3%. Source: America’s Health Rankings.org

How about comparing the on-time high school graduation rate by race for the entire United States?

Continued on September 25, 2013 in Starting school at age seven—some claim—would be better: Part 3 or return to Part 1

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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Starting school at age seven—some claim—would be better: Part 1 of 5

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The UK’s Telegraph reports, “Formal schooling should be delayed until the age of six or seven because early education is causing profound damage to children, an influential lobby of almost 130 experts warns.”

Why do I disagree with these so-called experts?

The last time fools [my opinion]—like these—sparked a revolution in raising children, it led to the average American parent boosting a false sense of self-esteem in his or her children raising a generation of narcissists and/or sociopaths as recent studies have pointed out.

The self-esteem hot-air bubble also led to inflating grades and dumbing down the curriculum in the public schools so children would feel better about themselves. [See New Study Reveals Most Children Unrepentant Sociopaths and We are raising a generation of deluded narcissists]

I’m sure some of these so-called experts will argue that in Finland children start school at age seven, and Finland has one of the most successful public school systems in the world.

But what you will probably not hear is that most parents in Finland start teaching their children a love of reading as early as age three—at home; are very supportive of education and teachers and that Finland’s teachers, who are in charge in the classroom, belong to a very strong teachers union.

Parents in Finland do not wait for teachers to do their job for them—a job made difficult for teachers in the United States where many children who have not been exposed to books at an early age have no love of reading when they enter the classroom for the first time [at any age].

Why what works in Finland will not work in the United States will be revealed in Part 2

Continued on September 24, 2013 in Starting school at age seven—some claim—would be better: Part 2

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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What is the Matter with Parents these Days? – Part 1/4

More than twenty years ago, I attended a lecture at one of the Claremont Colleges. I do not recall the speaker’s name but he was a successful journalist that wrote for major publications such as The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

He had published a memoir of raising his normal, above average daughter and a younger son with an IQ of eighty.  The lecture was about how his wife and he raised the son to graduate with honors from high school and be accepted to Harvard where he earned a degree in engineering.

I wish I could remember this journalist’s name and the title of his memoir, but it has been too long. However, I have not forgotten his story.  If anyone reading this post knows the title of the memoir, please tell me in a comment.

When this journalist’s son was old enough to start school at age six, the parents agonized over how to raise him so he could live a normal life and compete for jobs in the marketplace as an adult.

Job hunting and earning a living is not without its challenges and competition (on July 6, 2012, The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 12.7 million Americans were unemployed, while the number of Americans living in poverty was more than 47 million and many go hungry daily).

For the journalist’s family, to achieve their goals as responsible parents, it was decided to retire the family television to the garage and read books every night with a family hour before bedtime to discuss what each family member read.

Twelve years later, the son with the eighty IQ earned a perfect score on the SAT and the high school principal claimed he had to have cheated. The father argued that his son had not cheated, so the school made the son take the SAT again in a room without any other students, and he was monitored by three staff members. The  son earned a second perfect SAT score. Soon after that, the son was accepted to Harvard

This brings me to a post I read at clotildajamcracker (a Blog) called What’s the Matter with Kids these Days?

The post is worth reading—specially the comments. However, the problem is not kids—it’s parents.

In fact, I read one comment from the Headless Coffee Guy that said, “Hey, I hope my daughter will grow up to be a super genius who will find the unified theory in physics, solve world hunger, save the whales, and write her first symphony at 4. … But alas, I think ultimately, it’s really not up to the parent to decide what their child wants to be. We can only nurture and suggest, but it’s really up to the child to make up their own minds. All I really want for my daughter is to be happy.”

Is there anything wrong with Headless Coffee Guy’s concept of parenting as expressed in that previous quote?

Continued on July 24, 2012 in What is the Matter with Parents these Days? – Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.

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Eager to Learn or Not – Part 10/10

If you visit the 2010 API State Report for California, you will discover there are four subgroups that have achieved the goals set forth in the NCLB Act — Asian, Filipino, White/Caucasian, and a child of two or more races meaning parents from two different Ethnic/Racial groups where the mother may be African-American and the father White or the father Asian and the mother Latino.

I know from experience that for my brother, the learning equation (discussed in Part 2) was 1 + 0 + 0, which resulted in failure and an illiterate child growing up to become an illiterate adult. The teacher was there to teach but my brother was not there to learn.

When I was seven and my brother seventeen with some jail time already under his tattoos, my mother stepped in and taught me to read at home, and it was not easy for her. I fought her every inch of the way as my brother did. The difference is that my brother won that battle but lost at life.

However, to succeed with me my mother did something she did not do with Richard. She used a wire-coat hanger to spank me and motivate me to do as I was told and to learn.

Public school teachers in America are not allowed to do what a parent can do at home.

The result is that I learned to read and because of my mother’s involvement in that learning equation, I now have the ability to write things such as my novels, posts for this Blog and I enjoy reading books–lots of books.

Richard, on the other hand, died a broken man in both health and spirit at age 64, and he left behind several children mostly illiterate because he was a bad role model and was never involved in their educations, which resulted in more failure.

If you return to that NPR.org piece on the public school teachers and administrators that cheated on Atlanta’s standardized test results to make it look as if more students were making progress toward meeting the goals set forth in the NCLB Act, what caused that behavior was desperate people that did not want to lose their jobs due to the flawed opinions of fools in the federal government and of course among the Walton Wal-Mart family and talking heads such as Rush Limbaugh and my “old” NLBC  friend that believe they know what they are talking about when they don’t.

I do not blame my brother Richard’s teachers. They did their job and taught. However, Richard did not learn because he chose not to learn and our parents were not directly involved in the process when Richard needed them to be tough and say no and mean it even if it meant using a coat hanger as an enforcer.

During those 30 years teaching in the public schools (1975 – 2005), I met many students like my brother Richard and my goal was to convince and/or motivate these individuals (both boys and girls) to be an active part of the education equation. It was never easy and the successes were rare but there were a few.

Return to Eager to Learn or Not – Part 9 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Posted by on July 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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