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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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