Illiteracy in the U.S. and the Impact of Reading

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I can’t imagine a world without books. Reading is the fuel for my heart and my brain. It provides me with so much joy, knowledge, and feelings of calmness. I believe not being able to read would leave me feeling displaced – as if I suddenly lost one of my five senses.

I love that I am instantly transported to a different world where I get to live in someone else’s shoes, discover a different culture, religion, point of view, or time period. I’ve written about my passion for reading and the many life skills being an English major has given me. My mom, a former first grade teacher, instilled the love of reading in me at a young age. I have fond childhood memories lying side by side on our bellies flipping through picture books and as we got older, chapter books. Books were everywhere. It was the quickest way to take a vacation, to escape, and to open the doors of my little home to the great big world. 

The studies don’t lie. Reading delivers huge benefits through all periods of your life.

Stress Reduction: reading even beats out listening to music, sipping tea, or going for a walk!

Mental Stimulation: your brain is a muscle and reading exercises it. Reading keeps your mind active and can help prevent Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Improved Focus and Concentration: a major bonus in our busy, distracted, internet crazed world.

Lifelong Learning and Knowledge:  better equipping you for any challenges you may face in your lifetime. 

Vocabulary Expansion: making you more articulate and well spoken and a better communicator. Not to mention a better writer! 

Stronger Analytical Thinking Skills

While thinking about the impact of reading on my life, I began to think about the negative side effects of NOT reading.

The data that I found on reading and illiteracy in the US shocked me.  I believe that this topic is completely ignored and covered up.


The data:

Total percent of U.S. adults who can’t read  – 14%

Number of U.S. adults who can’t read   – 32 million

Percent of U.S. adults who read below a 5th grade reading level  –   21%

Percent of high school graduates who can’t read  –   19%

Total percent of U.S. high school graduates who will never read a book after high school  –  33%

Total percentage of college students who will never read another book after they graduate   –  42%

 Total percentage of U.S. families who did not buy a book this year  –  80%


 Are you as shocked as me? 

Even worse, many of the U.S.’s social and economic problems are directly related to illiteracy, yet very little is being done about it. As we move forward with the current educational standards (heavy testing ahem), the focus on reading is not valued. Our entire country is being threatened and the U.S.’s knowledge bank is decreasing immensely.


 The statistics below show the direct correlation between reading and success: 

• One child in four grows up not knowing how to read.

• 90% of welfare recipients are high school dropouts

• 44 million adults in the U.S. can’t read well enough to read a simple story to a child. 

• 85% of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.

• More than 60% of all prison inmates are functionally illiterate.

• 2/3 of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of the 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare.If they cannot read proficiently in the 4th grade, he or she will have approximately a 78 percent change of not catching up. 

• Penal institution records show that inmates have a 16% chance of returning to prison if they receive literacy help, as opposed to 70% who receive no help. This equates to taxpayer costs of $25,000 per year per inmate and nearly double that amount for juvenile offenders.

• Since 1983, more than 10 million Americans reached the 12th grade without having learned to read at a basic level. In the same period, more than 6 million Americans dropped out of high school altogether. 

•  Over one million children drop out of school each year, costing the nation over $240 billion in lost earnings, forgone tax revenues, and expenditures for social services.  

• Out-of-school reading habits of students has shown that even 15 minutes a day of independent reading can expose students to more than a million words of text in a year. 

• In 1999, only 53 percent of children aged 3 to 5 were read to daily by a family member. Children in families with incomes below the poverty line are less likely to be read aloud to everyday than are children in families with incomes at or above the poverty line. 

• Students who reported having all four types of reading materials (books, magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias) in their home scored, on average, higher than those who reporter having fewer reading materials. 

• Approximately 50 percent of the nation’s unemployed youth age 16-21 are functional illiterate, with virtually no prospects of obtaining good jobs. 

• 46% of America’s adults are poor readers, or “functionally illiterate.” They can’t carry out simply tasks like balancing check books, reading drug labels or writing essays for a job. 


 The fate of our country is at risk. What can you do about it?

Continue to read. Continue to discuss books. Read the book before you see the movie. Buy books. Share books. Give books as gifts. Support teachers. Support authors. Donate books to schools, to daycares, to donation centers, and to shelters.  Read to children. Have children read out loud to you. If you can, become a literacy volunteer or a tutor to adult or child students.

Most importantly Read, read, read. 

xoxo Katie

 

 

 

Ryan Takes Over the Blog: 5 Ways to Stay Sane in Law School (or grad school)

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The bully that is Polar Vortex came by for another nasty visit this week. The latest snow storm to pummel the North East made today and yesterday snow days!. We bundled up at home, hiding out from the 8-11 inches of snow dumped across the county. Today, we are facing a -12 windchill and I’m chilled to the bones.

While I worked from home, Ryan had a rare day of relaxation. But the man doesn’t know how to relax, instead he offered to write a guest post for me, offering some tips for adult students like himself.

So, today, I hand over the reins to my blog to my hardworking and lovable husband, Ryan. Here he is in his own words:

ryan

Hello blogging world! My name is Ryan and I’m the lucky guy that gets to call Katie my wife. Though you and I have vaguely “met” through Katie’s posts, I wanted to take a moment to formally introduce myself and discuss law school.

First, I am a part-time evening student, meaning that in addition to having a 40 hour work week, I typically spend about 3-4 nights a week attending classes at a  law school near my work. My free time is slim to none, so I’ve learned how to manage my time and divide up my hours between, work, school, sleep, and social life.   I have been doing this for 3 years now, night students have a 4 year program, and I’m begining to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Now this may appear to be a crazy schedule and you may be wondering, “why would anyone sign up for this?” However, it is manageable and I am here to discuss 5 ways of staying sane during law school, which I feel can be applied to both full-time and part-time students.

1. Have a life!

ryan life

I remember my first year Torts professor telling me that the key to success in law school was to not have a life your first year (possibly first two years for evening students). The rationale is that the first year courses are considered your core courses and potential employers, especially for summer associate positions, will look at how you did in your first year courses. Once I heard this, I couldn’t imagine devoting over a year to work and school during the week and solely school work on the weekends. I’m pretty sure that’s how people tend to go crazy. So I decided to modify his advice and have somewhat of a life during my first year. I wound up doing well in my first year courses and also managed to stay sane.

2. Devote a weekend day to yourself or to “us” if you are in a relationship.

ryan and katie

Saturday was my particular day of choice before I met Katie and now it has become our day. Saturdays have become our day to unwind, catch up on what happened during the week, and enjoy everything that life has given us.

3. Don’t be afraid about relationships and law school.

don't be afraid of relationships in law school

I believe that one could write a book solely on this topic alone. If you google “relationships and law school” you will find a slew of articles, mostly negative, about the effects of law school in relationships. Don’t get me wrong, law school is hard on any relationship, married or dating, but if both of you are willing to make sacrifices and compromises, then it will work. Katie, being the wonderful wife that she is, has made this adventure through law school much more manageable through everything that she does for me

4. Don’t be shy!

don't be shy

This one is easily said but being the very shy person that I am, I know how hard it can be to meet new people and make new friends, especially in the competitive atmosphere of law school. Still, you are all on the same boat that is law school and experiencing the same treacherous ride, so why not make new friends along the way.

5. Get a dog! (or cat if you are a cat person)

get a dog to help with law school

Seriously, this is one of the best ways to stay sane in law school. Most recently, Yale Law School began bringing in dogs around final exam time to alleviate stress from their students. I’m lucky enough to have a little shitzu poodle named Maggie May that comes to greet me at the door every night, even if it’s midnight, just to let me know how much she has missed me.

I hope others find my learned experiences. Above all else, try to not worry too much. (I can see Katie rolling her eyes as she reads this because I’m a constant worrier). But, try to add some laughter into the mix.

have fun in law school

 

A stay-at-home Mom responds to those who say her Ivy League education was wasted

Highly recommend this article: http://verilymag.com/feature/o-alma-mater/

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Education is never wasted – why is the the value of education measured in your income or position on the corporate ladder?

“My point is, when a highly educated woman is home with her children day in and day out, she weaves the riches of her education into their lives in continuous, subtle, living ways. This is a priceless preparation for a lifetime of learning. This gift is the transmission of culture.

Having received the wonderful gift of an elite education, I didn’t leave it behind. I carry it with me in who I am today. It enriches my life in ways that no salary can measure. It is worthwhile in a way no measure of productivity is needed to justify. Passing on this education to my daughter, a human being whose worth I know intimately, I see even more clearly that broadening a girl’s mind, filling it with beauty, is never, to quote Goff, “a wasted opportunity.”

Amen!