Today, the world of literature has become one of the biggest commercial markets in the world. Publishing has expanded exponentially and the means by which one is expected to deliver such information to the reader, is painting a very new face. Yes, many individuals would consider this good business. Yet, is children’s' education suffering - given that literature is just not catering to the learning and academic needs of the child? Are publishers too caught up in the world of capitalism to notice - literacy and numeracy rates are plummeting?
ACER - Australian Council for Educational Research revealed, Australians lack sufficient numeracy and literacy skills to sustain them through life - stating that it is having a negative impact on the economy, the individuals and on productivity. "The 21st century requires its citizens and workers to have increasingly higher-level literacy and numeracy skills,” Mr Tout stated (Herald: 2013).
According to the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which measures maths, reading and science skills of half a million 15-year-olds from around the world, Australia’s ranking fell in all subjects: from 15th to 19th in mathematics; 10th to 16th in science and 9th to 14th in reading, since 2009. "Asian countries like China, Singapore, Korea and Japan are pulling ahead of Australian students in maths and reading." (Anderson: 2013)
Understandably, more and more of our young children, particularly boys are being left behind. Young adults and adolescents are entering the job market with insufficient literacy skills. Unfortunately, Australia is not the only country in this boat.
So, where am I going with this?
Illiterate individuals do not just notice one day, they cannot read. It is a state of being that gets progressively worse over the years. It does not start at secondary school. The problem arises much early - primary school, kindergarten, pre-school - before they enter the school arena. The problem of not being able to read, somehow gets overlooked - let go or ignored. It is considered too minuscule to worry about. What is the old saying?
'It will sort its self out.'
However, we cannot sit back and wait for this to happen; nor can we blame teachers or schools for letting it get this bad. We must remember, there is not one child in a classroom, but thirty and only so many hours in one day. Schools are under-funded; teachers are overworked; resources are more and more difficult to acquire.
There are many reasons for drops in literacy rates across nations. Yet, one of the biggest concerns is when and where literacy begins?
Answer: Literacy development begins at home, within a literate home environment - in the early stages of childhood.
Publishers are as much responsible for assisting with this set-up, as are parents and teachers. However, how does one choose and get access to quality literature that will encourage a new reader? How does one maintain a child's reading interest?
Colour-driven - large font - progressive and creative, children's literature / school texts could be the key. Unfortunately, just as children are reaching the critical stage of brain myelination (adolescence), they are expected to learn from graphic - black and white school texts supporting minute font. It should be noted, during this stage the brain is making millions of new connections; it is being re-wired and it will forfeit old connections to make ones.
Is it any wonder adolescents appear to have lost the art of communication - by fact, they have. It is also another reason why they are drawn to the highly absorbent, visually stimulating, colour imagery of games - it attracts their newly connecting synapses in the brain.
Publishers can greatly assist schools, teachers and parents by producing higher quality, interactive-educational packs for early literacy and numeracy acquisition; and by producing at minimum, the same quality of texts that are available for primary learners, but for the secondary educational market. This will give adolescents the extra help they need during this trying period, which in turn, could play a big part in eventually lifting literacy rates across the globe.
Hocking, W. (2013) Herald Sun, Retrieved from: http://www.mamamia.com.au/social/pisa-results-shows-australias-failing-education-system/
Anderson,S.(2013) Mamamia, Retrieved from: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/australians-lack-basic-literacy-numeracy-skills/story-fni0fiyv-1226738549202
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