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

 

 

 

In Defense of the English Major

  in defense of the english major, Katie a beautiful little adventure

I was an English major in college. No, I was never a teacher, nor did I have any great works published. I simply love to read, analyze, think about, discuss, and write about literature. Being an English major forced me to think critically and abstractly on a daily basis – uncovering themes and tropes as well as applying these thought processes to myself and the world around me.

We English majors get a lot of flak. During college the first response when I informed people what I was majoring in was, “What are going to do with that?” or “That sounds like a  waste of money.” Now, 9 years later, people still ask, “Are you actually using your English degree?”, “Was your degree a waste?”, or “You’re writing, but are you getting paid?”. It’s very rude!

I chose to study literature and still love it today because literature is a study of life in all its greatest forms. You get to experience life through the eyes of the greats from all time periods and doing so heightened my awareness of the human experience.

Additionally, it has broadened my perspective and has helped me become self-aware. I know I drive Ryan and my friends crazy by over analyzing every word, every moment, and every episode of Mad Men (or even  things like pop song lyrics and The Walking Dead). I can’t shake it, it’s part of who I am.

Being an English Major not only primed me to think differently about the world – it has also provided me with valuable tools to use in the workforce. Yes, it took a couple of years to figure out how to hone these skills and use them to my advantage. I couldn’t tell you how many interviews I went to where people stared dumbly at my resume, “so…English major eh?”.

Yet, I feel the my major has allowed me to possess and master certain skills sets that make me a desirable employee in many fields.  Skills like critical thinking, analytical thinking, writing skills, interpersonal skills, synthetic thinking, lateral thinking, creativity and most importantly communication skills. If you can communicate with varying audiences effectively, you can do pretty much anything.

But my choice to be an English major had nothing to do with the skills it would equip me with for the post-graduate job force. As a bright-eyed 18-year-old, I didn’t even consider those skills. I decided to be an English major because I loved to read. Reading allowed me to become other people, to see the world through the eyes of Bronte, Hemingway, Yeats, Milton, and Joyce. It wasn’t a form of escape, it was a way to live a life outside of my own. To experience the world and meet new people outside of my small college campus.

With each piece of literature I was invited to question our society, examine our culture, and analyze the world we occupy. I learned to step behind the lens of varying perspectives and to stretch my mind while nurturing my own opinions and spirit. By doing so I became more part of the world; more human.

People may ask, “So? Why would you become an English major? Why is that so important? How does that make you valuable to the future and the workforce?”

My reply?

Can you imagine a world without literature?A world without stories, letters, poems, plays, movies, song lyrics?

What would be the purpose to life? To simply work, produce products, sell, consume, and die? That would be proposing a life without art, a life without symbolism, a life without humanity.

Civilization is built upon stories and texts and analysis of history. We learn from the past and history is written and told; why else is it called history? From these stories we learn to endure and to grow and to live.

Our existence is meant for more than simply working and producing in order to survive. We are born to create and to enjoy and to share.

I believe all students can mutually agree that they learned more about life than about earning a living during their four years at college. I am fully in support of English Majors.  I can’t think of any better major to personally equip me both mentally and spiritually for my tenure as a human on earth.
xoxo Katie

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

snow abla
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:

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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

 

The Thankful Project – A Job

thankful project

It is the month of Thanksgiving – a perfect time to reflect and remember all that we have to be grateful for.

I’m joining Kenzie’s The Thankful Project over at her blog Chasing Happy. Today we are discussing a job that we are thankful for.

To be honest, I’m thankful for every job that I’ve ever had. Not just because good jobs are hard to come by these days, but because they were all different and all suited me rather well.

The job that I want to discuss today though is my very first “real” job out of college. I was floundering a big after graduation. It took me a good 8 months to find a “career” job. There seemed to be zero good fits for me and my English degree, until I stumbled upon an ad for a job at an international boating magazine. After studying the company a little bit, I knew this was the job I wanted. I was ecstatic when I got an in person interview.

I was a nervous wreck and dripping in sweat under my suit. Everyone was so nice and it was a beautiful office located right on the bay. But, everyone was a passionate boater. It was their life. When they asked me about my boating experience, I choked up and looked nervously around the room. I knew if I mentioned my Pop-Pop’s small time fishing boat they would smile and think “awe isn’t that cute, that’s the type of boats we use as a dinghy”. I put on my biggest smile and said, “well, not much, but I can’t wait to learn and become a boater like the rest of you!” I couldn’t believe it when they offered me the job on the spot.

Like most other first “real” jobs I learned a lot of valuable lessons, tools, and became much more self-aware about myself. Like any job, it wasn’t perfect and I did my fair share of complaining during my time here. But in hindsight, it was pretty great. Here are a few of the things I’m thankful for the most about my 3 years in this position:

1. I learned to stand up for myself and to use my voice. When I started this job I was feeling pretty low about myself. I had done so well in college, but couldn’t find a job. While at this position I gained confidence in myself. I learned to speak out about what I like and didn’t like about my position and low and behold, a mere 6 months after starting, they created a new position for me – that better suited my passions and tool set. I learned that my voice matters. 

2. It provided me the opportunity to travel the country. Part of my job entailed traveling around to different boat shows across the country. I got to travel to some pretty spectacular coastal places in New York, Florida, California, and Washington. It was a lot of time away from home and a lot of hard work. I would never want to go back to the grueling 12 hour days of running a boat show, but I wouldn’t trade in my experience to see beautiful parts of this country on someones else’s dime. Although we worked really hard, we also enjoyed times at fun restaurants and bars. I have so many memories like the ER visit in Miami, being in San Diego for Mardi Gras, and group happy hours on the deck of boats in the San Juan islands.

3. It opened me up to new things. Through this job I became friends with people I would have never considered being friends with in college. It allowed me to see that “clicks” don’t have to exist in adult life. Before I started this job, I swore that I hated wine and I would have never tried sushi. And surprise, surprise, now I love sushi and am a major wino. I also would have never considered becoming a graphic and web designer – but while at this job I self-taught myself some basic html and Illustrator and had so much fun that I decided to go back to school for it!

4. It Made me less shy. When I first started at the young age of 22, I was basically terrified to call up strangers on the phone to talk to them about our business. But, as my three years progressed I quickly found myself as the bubbly blonde that loved welcoming and introducing our clients at events and even acted as the emcee during our Auction and Trivia nights. In hindsight, this job really helped me grow into myself.

5. It introduced me to a whole new world of people. I never knew that “boaters” were such a niche demographic of people, or that they were so fun! These people can drink! I had so much fun over the years meeting various welcoming boaters at our events. I think that was my favorite part of this job – hearing all of the amazing stories of our readers and event attendees. Most of them were devoted boating and travel enthusiasts who gave up all of their belongings and their home to live aboard their yachts and to travel the world. They had a dream and they made it come true. I found them to be inspiring and once again fun!

6. Instilled in me a good work ethic and to live by the motto, “work hard, play hard” As I mentioned above, we worked extremely hard. But, we always rewarded ourselves at the end of the day with either a night out somewhere or by having a few glasses of wine back at the hotel or office. Even though it was sometimes hard to get up the next day, we would get up, strap on our boat shoes and attack the next day. (I know for sure I wouldn’t be able to keep up now at age 30.) Even though we drove each other insane sometimes, I learned the value of team work.  Our boss would always says, “You gotta work hard to play hard.” and I remember thinking that it was so cheesy. But, it is a good motto to live by at any age. I continue to celebrate each victory while simultaneously look forward to the next step.

What is a job that you’ve had that you are thankful for?

xoxo katie

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/

o-alma-mater

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!