Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. —Richard Steele
“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” ― Frederick Douglass
The first mistake that a lot of people make due to the proliferation of books and the internet in the 21st century is to assume that everyone can read. Big, big mistake. I recently heard statistics that indicated that 2/5 of the population of children in Nigeria can’t read. I was speechless for a long time after hearing that.
Literacy is the ability to read, write, , speak and listen in able for effective communication to occur. The real sovereignty of literacy lies not just in the ability to read and write, but rather in a person’s capacity in the application of these skills to efficiently connect, interpret and discern the intricacies of the world in which they live.
As an educator, the key task that I undertook is the responsibility of enlightening and strengthening young minds. As I always state whenever I stress key components of education- the number task is to ensure that our students are literate. Encouraging children to read and write at a young age and building on that foundation throughout their learning experiences as students enables that a solid foundation is laid for them and they are equipped with future readiness for their lives.
Lots of children these days are ‘digital natives’ – just as comfortable online as they are offline. The internet enables endless educational possibilities, with constantly evolving information streams, Yet, the voluminous material online can be daunting to the children who cannot efficiently sift through and interpret what they read.
Strong literacy skills are a key tool used when children discern and interpret information, enabling them to utilize the internet to its full potential.
Recently I heard reports about how dilapidated the literacy standards actually are and my heart broke. I was hearing about 10-11 year olds still sounding vowels. How had early literacy skipped them by? Early literacy is defined as “what children know about reading and writing before they actually read or write.” The essential pre reading skills that our children should have are the following-:
- Print motivation: How excited and interested children are in books.
- Print awareness: Knowing how to follow words on a page, as well as how to hold a book.
- Phonological awareness: The understanding that words are made up of smaller sounds.
- Vocabulary: Knowing the names of things, feelings, concepts, and ideas as well as connecting the words to real life.
- Narrative skills: Ability to describe things and events; being able to tell and understand stories.
- Letter knowledge: Awareness that each letter is different and comes with a unique name and sound.
Why so much of an emphasis on literacy?
Challenges with literacy affect the entire nation of Nigeria. These challenges have negative influence on our workforce, the well-being of our communities, our economy and our day-to-day lives.
We are dealing with a weak economy and escalating unemployment. We also have a current situation which is a burgeoning one where employers are having a hard time finding workers with the right skills to fill the highly skilled jobs that are becoming available.
The only way to get those jobs is to be able to read, write and use digital technologies.
To encourage Literacy I suggest-:
- Encouraging our children to read and peruse through a diversity of texts such as newspapers, novels, comics, magazines, and websites.
• Talking about things that you have read or watched that were entertaining, thought-provoking or useful
• Discussing preferred authors and what you like about them
• Playing games that increase knowledge and delight of words
• Making use of community resources for information, local and school libraries (this is a whole topic unto itself.
By addressing literacy now, we will have a stronger literate Nigeria for us all.
Adetola Salau; Educator / Speaker / Author/ Social Entrepreneur / Innovator
She is an Advocate of STEM Education and is Passionate about Education reform. She is an innovative thinker and strives for our society & continent as a whole to reclaim it’s greatness. She runs an educational foundation with the mission to transform education.