Thursday, July 19, 2007

Literacy, then what?

We are embarking on an exciting quest to reach 90% proficiency in reading in the near future and I feel that it's a goal that makes perfect sense for our elementary school - or for any other elementary school for that matter. However, some of my summer reading has got me wondering about the end game. Is literacy in itself the goal? I would argue that it is not. In fact, literacy is simply the requisite fundamental skill that most benefits sound thinking and can also contribute to character and community service. The books I've been reading lately like Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah have knocked my socks off. The first is fiction and the second is non-fiction, but both opened my eyes to the worlds of Afghanistan and Sierra Leone, places that were none to friendly to children.
Here are some thoughts that I've had from these books.
1. Our students need to be exposed (in age-appropriate doses) to the world outside their local community.
2. Our students need to experience the power of literature to tell a story.
3. We need to teach values along with these high powered literacy skills so that our students don't make C.S. Lewis a prophet who said, “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.”
4. Effective education can have a powerful harmonizing effect on society as a whole.

These are just a few rambling thoughts that seem to interconnect while reading these books. What do you all think when you consider the end product of literacy?


Junie B. said...

We have the opportunity each day when we self-select read-alouds to introduce our students to the power of literature to tell a story. I wonder sometimes if we take the time to select literature that will challenge the thinking of our students or present them with value concepts.
I would hope literacy allows our students to comprehend and explore the world around them, to think critically about issues and to make informed decisions based on their reading of a topic.

danw said...

Well said, Junie B. A purposeful selection of the literature can gently lead students to think outside their immediate world and ponder the dilemmas we all face.