As I gear up to make a presentation tomorrow at the annual VATE (Victorian Association of Teachers of English) State Conference 2013, my mind is easily turned by headlines that highlight illiteracy levels.
Stumbling on a post in the GoodReadingMagazine blog I found myself trawling around for the stats that were highlighted in a September 2013 Huffington Post article: The US illiteracy rate hasn’t changed in 10 years. As it turned out, the stats were based on a study conducted by the US Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy which I found published online on Statistic Brain.
32 million or 14% of US adults being illiterate and a staggering 21% reading below 5th grade level is frightening. And with the article headline underlining that there has been no shift in literacy levels in the last ten years, educators like myself can’t help but gasp.
With the publication just a few days ago of the latest PISA 2012 results, the picture for Australia is also not great. Highlighting the three key areas measured – maths, science and reading – an article on news.com.au: PISA report finds Australian teenagers education worse than 10 years ago clearly illustrates the slide in the perfomance of our 15 year olds.
With a world ranking of 13 for reading, the slide is apparent when looking at this graph:
So what’s going on? Why has there been a backward slide in reading achievement? Why aren’t levels shooting up?
Without a doubt, educator’s will be scratching their heads ….. arguments and debates will be rife. While I don’t have any answers, I guess I have lots of thoughts on the issue, one of which is that:
We need to get students excited about reading!”
It was this thought which powered me a few years ago to create an innovative and different focus on reading in a school in which I worked. It was with an immense sense of satisfaction that I was able to re-invent the well worn ‘Book Week’ activities regularly promoted by Teacher Librarians across the country into a Literary Festival – an event which was more sophisticated and appealing to senior school students. Being able to inspire the entire senior school staff to join with me in celebrating literature across the curriculum, with 18 presenters and nearly 50 sessions in its first year and 26 presenters and more than 80 sessions in its second year, the two Literary Festivals held in 2007 and 2008 were as enjoyable and satisfying to me as they were to all students and staff.
I am passionate about sharing these thoughts and ideas with others. Reading to me is the backbone to all we do in education. It is my firm conviction that if we can’t excite our students to read, our efforts to educate will fail. Opening the minds of our students by reading is akin to opening a gateway to the world. Reading is a key tool to exploring, discovering and lifelong learning.
I look forward to sharing my thoughts on how to Stage a Literary Festival: It’s not as hard as you think! at the VATE State Conference 2013.
With the current luxury of working part time, I am available as a consultant to those wishing to take the plunge and stage a Literary Festival. I will easily convince you that it’s not as hard as you think!
I will be sharing the following notes with those attending my presentation.
This post has also been published on my other blog, NovaNews.