Adult illiteracy · basic skills in reading and maths · recession

Can’t Read? No job!

More news from npr. The recession in the the USA is causing huge anxiety for those whose reading skills are less than adequate. Apparently, the unemployed are filling up adult literacy programmes.

It’s a particularly desperate time for those with only basic language (for which read ‘elementary reading’) and maths skills.

One ‘Friends of Literacy’ call centre is reported having taken more calls in one month than in nearly all of 2007 and 2008 combined.

David Harvey is President of ProLiteracy, an international literacy agency in New York. He says most of ProLiteracy’s twelve hundred member organisations in the US have seen a rush of inquiries from people suddenly caught without a job and a basic education.

Matt Murray of the University of Tennessee’s Centre for Business and Economic Research says those workers are discovering their jobs have either disappeared or have gone overseas and that job prospects will be very bleak ‘because the jobs will simply not be there’.

5 thoughts on “Can’t Read? No job!

  1. Hi John,
    Thanks for an interesting blog. I’m wondering how literacy is taught in the States, or does it vary from state to state? And whatever the case, are there any lessons we can draw for what we do in the UK?

  2. Yes, Jim, literacy instruction does vary from state to state and even county to county. Schools usually have no choice and are ‘mandated’ to use with ‘fidelity’ whichever publisher’s reading program has been selected. These are generally quite prescriptive, telling teachers which sight words will be taught, which comprehension strategies worked on, which words to spell each week of the year. They are strong on visual memory strategies and analytic phonics. Rarely do you find any kind of synthetic phonics, although I do think synthetic phonics is slowly gaining some recognition as a better approach.

  3. Thanks for answering Jim’s question, Gini. It must be incredibly frustrating to be ‘mandated’ to use a reading program selected for you, especially if it is based on a flawed methodology.
    The sooner synthetic/linguistic phonics programmes get taken up and become proven, the better.

  4. If you have a good understanding of synthetic phonics and knowledge of what needs to be taught and how to teach it, there are ways of adapting a mandated curriculum – changing the language of instruction to focus on sounds, ensuring skills are taught (segmenting and blending), correcting errors to promote understanding of the sound-symbol relationship, manipulating the content a bit (i.e. teaching 3 spellings when a sound is first met rather than the mandated one spelling and the other 2 three months later), etc. Then when your test outcomes show improvement, the evidence is on your side for change.

  5. Gini,
    I couldn’t agree more with your comments.
    The problem is how do we teach teachers and teaching support assistants how the code works, the skills you mention of segmenting and blending, and how to correct errors. As well as that, in which order do they teach the sound/spelling relationships.
    The problem always comes down to training, and unless the schools, or the county bureaucracies can be persuaded to invest, it’s going to be even harder than it is here.
    Perhaps the evidence you mention needs to include large populations and to be published and peer reviewed.

Comments are closed.