Frugal Village Forums banner

1 - 7 of 7 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
73 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
My late husband Cliff read at about the 4th grade level. Most people didn’t know that about him. We all know people with limited reading ability but they don't talk about it so we don't know it. It seems to be the last remaining thing that people won't talk about. We talk about all kinds of diseases, politics, money, religion and even sex, but nobody admits they can't read well. If he was in a situation where a form needed to be filled out he told them he forgot his glasses and brought the form home to me.

Depending on what grade level the statisticians are using, 14% to 20% of Americans (and just as many Canadians and Britons) are functionally illiterate. Most limited readers find a job they can do without reading much. My husband was a barber. If you’re working outdoors or in a restaurant kitchen and the economy tanks, the other jobs you can try for are so very limited if you can’t do a job that requires reading. 75% of food stamp recipients read below the 5th grade level.

Some would fault the schools. Some would fault the person. But what if reading is like a lot of things and only so many people are going to be good at it? If athletic ability were required to succeed in our society I’d be in the 20% that never got good at it just as Cliff was in the 20% that never got good at reading. That might be something that can’t be changed much.

There is one thing that can be changed. No, two things. One, let’s create an atmosphere in our communities where limited readers don’t have to be ashamed and hide their situation. If they all “came out”, surely there would then be more demand for tutoring and adult literacy programs. If there were no shame in a 40 year old taking reading classes, more people would take them.

Now, I know some things can’t be helped. My husband had a learning disability. He was just flat never going to ‘get’ phonics. If he had had occasion to read a lot though, he might have gotten better at sight reading, just from practice. I know one adult limited reader that was nearly blind as a child. By the time that got fixed he had missed the years in which people usually learn to read. He has a good grip on phonics and reads very well at the third grade level. What’s missing is practice. Grownups don’t usually read a lot of kids’ books just for entertainment.

That’s the second thing that can be changed. We need more books that have adult themes and content but written at the lower grade levels. ABC Life Literacy in Canada has come out with a series of adult books that are easy to read. It consists of a mystery (The Hangman); a gritty urban novel (In From the Cold); an immigrant story (The Picture of Nobody); a tale of historical fiction (The Shipwreck); a thriller (The Stalker); and a self-help book (Easy Money). These books were written by experienced authors. The requirements included: 100 pages, no flashbacks or digressions, a maximum of two syllables per word.

The limited readers who read these books enjoyed reading them and for the first time saw reading as something to do for fun, not as a hard task that just had to be done. When something is fun to do that’s when we do it enough to get good at it.

After I finished writing my book I used the Flesch reading ease scale as part of the editing process. The scale doesn’t care how fancy your concepts are. It only cares how many syllables per word, how many words per sentence and how many sentences per paragraph. It’s all about how hard your eyes and brain have to work to physically process the writing. When ‘individual’ becomes ‘person’ and ‘purchase’ becomes ‘buy’, it’s just easier to read. Same concept, easier words.

What can we do? Be aware of our negative cultural assumptions about limited reading. Don’t say things that sound as if you assume a limited reader went to a bad school or must not be smart. Casual remarks that denigrate poor reading skills just add to the burden of shame. Second, do what you can to get books like those above into the hands of limited readers. Donate them to the local adult literacy program. Ask if your library has a section of adult books at lower grade levels. If they don’t, maybe they would start one with your encouragement. Civic clubs or extended families could chip in to buy a few sets of these adult literacy books for the library. You can learn more about these books at Good Reads® | ABC Life Literacy Canada
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
419 Posts
I agree that poor reading skills is not talked about unless it is about kids in school or recently graduated. Then people tend to forget about them, even though they still can't read well. I had a brother who hated reading. Maybe he had some issues nobody had diagnosed. It wasn't until he found books that kind of tricked him in to reading better that he started enjoying it. The old yellow Nancy Drew and blue Hardy Boys books fit what you describe above. More complex grammar, larger print and a good mix of easy and difficult words than other books aimed at the same age, they gave him a foundation in reading that made it easier to move up in skill level.

Good luck with your project.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,280 Posts
I so agree that poor reading skills is something that no one discusses. I used to be one of those children who was a very poor reader. My mom instead of pointing out my fault told me that she wanted me to read to her daily as she fixed dinner and she would pick out the books for me to read. I got lots of practice as we rarely went out to eat and she made everything from scratch. It made me a very good reader.
However I used to date a guy who was a drug store manager (along the scale of Walgreens or CVS) he would tell me that there many many illiterate patrons who shopped there. They recognized things by shape, size and color of the containers. If the item changed one of those aspects they would ask him what it was.
 
  • Like
Reactions: oheoh's momma

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,143 Posts
I am in the age group for this..My father couldn't read nor write even his own name..When I was a freshman in high school I taught him 2 write his name..Back when I was in school we had no special ed or anything like that..So many was passed over not able to learn as quick as others and they got passed on..
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
13,930 Posts
Well its funny about this subject. My Ddad is 85 and I always thought he read well as he had a collection of the classic in a shelf in our florida room. Then it occurred to me I had never seen him really read anything but the newspaper. He always acted like that was high literature. About 10 years ago he wrote me a heart felt letter because we had had a fight and I didnt call or see my mom. I was shocked at the illiteracy level of it. I think he was a product of the time though. Farm work to be done,wars,no specialized testing for LD,dyslexia or such. But as my Ddads generation passes on it should fade away but its not.
This is puzzling and concerning. I stayed home and worked w/ my kids experiencially and w/ the 3 R's. A lot of my DD's generation were home alone.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
870 Posts
Reader99, thank you so much for posting this. You've given me a lot to think about.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
549 Posts
my ex-spouse had difficulties reading as a teenager. he admitted to not really knowing how to read until he was about 13-14. he was able to learn to read but it was always a struggle for him - especially reading out loud. he would read for pleasure though, even though it was always a big challenge for him. as a result his writing skills were poor as well. when he had the opportunity to go to university it was a real challenge for him.

i was always at a loss about how to help him because for me reading had always come so easily and had always been a huge part of my life. the only way i could help was ensure that his son, who also struggled with reading, learned how to read. it was a year long project for me.
 
1 - 7 of 7 Posts
Top