Illiteracy Might Not Be What You Think

People First is a platform for development way more powerful than Mobile First; Digital First or even Pokemon First…forgive the sarcasm….

And frankly, as a subset of People First, I’d lead with Education First…as in Literacy First…because while there no doubt exists a good argument to show that literacy isn’t really required to find your Pokemon Go…you decide if that is a generation you want inheriting the world.

Forgive me for using only statistics based on United States data but I’d argue, and strongly, that the trends will relate to most of the world, with a few notable exceptions.

  • It is estimated that more than $2 billion is spent each year on students who repeat a grade because they have reading problems
  • The educational careers of 25 to 40 percent of American children are imperiled because they don’t read well enough, quickly enough, or easily enough
  • 44 million adults in the U.S. can’t read well enough to read a simple story to a child
  • 60 percent of America’s prison inmates are illiterate and 85% of all juvenile offenders have reading problems
  • It is estimated that the cost of illiteracy to business and the taxpayer is $20 billion per year.
  • 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.

I could go on and on…but I think that the statistics speak for themselves and are, if we are honest, devastating in terms of cost; lost opportunity; revenue; crime and yes hopelessness.

But perhaps the most devastating statistic is the following:

To participate fully in society and the workplace in 2020, citizens will need powerful literacy abilities that until now have been achieved by only a small percentage of the population.

And there you have it…not a good forecast.

But there is hope.

As I have written before, Digital First education has proven to be a failure. KNEE JERK ALERT…this doesn’t mean that there isn’t success in using digital tools or sources – of course there is! New technology has always been incorporated into education whether it was a papyrus scroll, back in the day, or video over the last 50 years or so.

But it was never the technology that educated….it was what was in it and the value it added…

So I see hope when I read the latest study by The Pew Research Center, quoted by The New York Times:

Even with Facebook, Netflix and other digital distractions increasingly vying for time, Americans’ appetite for reading books — the ones you actually hold in your hands — has not slowed in recent years.

More:

Lee Rainie, the director of internet, science and technology research for Pew Research, said the study demonstrated the staying power of physical books.

“I think if you looked back a decade ago, certainly five or six years ago when ebooks were taking off, there were folks who thought the days of the printed book were numbered, and it’s just not so in our data,” he said.

This sounds very similar to the predictions of the death of TV; Movies; Restaurants and yes even brick and mortar retail (see Amazon).

And here is the kicker:

The 28 percent who said they had read an ebook in the past year has remained relatively steady in the past two years, but the way they are consuming ebooks is changing…. 28 percent are reading a combination of digital and printed books, suggesting that voracious readers are happy to take their text however they can get it..

The result being:

“They want books to be available wherever they are,” Mr. Rainie said. “They’ll read an ebook on a crowded bus, curl up with a printed book when they feel like that, and go to bed with a tablet.”

Bottom line…reading is People First…like life.

One form is not better or more forward than another…other than it meets my need at the moment to read…

And that is where I believe we can change the world.

It’s all about reading. Literacy. Nothing else. Not digital or mobile or gaming proficiency.

We need to get back to basics. Teach literacy. Instill a love for books. Create a culture for reading.

Let circumstance and need dictate the format…not DIGIBABBLE.

Movable type created the need for an Internet….it began the revolution for the need of information and learning.

It would be sad to see the true people’s revolution die in the whimper of digital conceit. We cannot limit education because we are locked into a paradigm of single source…listen:

Beware of the person of one book. Thomas Aquinas

Only a People First focus and approach can guarantee multiple and diverse volumes…think of that as you ponder the quick decline of Pokemon Go and the staying power of Harry Potter….

P.S. Check out today’s New York Times piece showing the proliferation of billboard advertisements when everyone is talking mobile and social — “billboard companies are not only surviving — they’re flourishing…even tech companies are taking their ads outdoors…” (check out my post on Snapchat’s “digital billboards.”) Many billboards use digital technology….just as many used “electric technology” in the last century…but at its heart…it’s still outdoor/out-of-home.

What do you think?

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