Thursday Blurb: More Now THAT’s Scary


Celebrating holidays (not just Halloween) isn’t uniquely American. Traditions cross many cultures and religions. Some we celebrate in common, others we do not.

OpenClipArt Jack O LanternUnfortunately, one of the things we share is illiteracy. According to ProLiteracy, 775 million adults around the world are illiterate in their native languages. Two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are women.  Many of these women are moms.

Earlier this decade, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) analyzed the results of the 1998-1999 Early Childhood Longitudinal Study. That’s a long name for a study about kids’ preparedness for school. The researchers found that as a mother’s education increases, so does the likelihood that her child is read to every day … a very important factor for success.

  • In 1999, 70 percent of children whose mothers were college graduates were read aloud to every day.
  • In comparison, daily reading aloud occurred for 53 percent of children whose mothers had some postsecondary education, 44 percent whose mothers had completed high school but had no education beyond that, and 38 percent whose mothers had not completed high school.

More recently, the NCES studied family reading habits, surveying families with a child born in 2001. They collected data when the children were infants (about 9 months old); as toddlers (about 2 years old); and then when they started preschool.

  • At each age, between one-third and one-half of these children were read to daily by a family member.
  • Approximately one-fourth of children at each of these ages were told stories daily and between one-half and three-quarters were sung to daily.
  • In general, at all ages, a higher percentage of White children had family members who read to them daily than did children of other races/ethnicities: 41 percent of White, 26 percent of Asian, 23 percent of Black, 21 percent of Hispanic, and 18 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native 9-month-olds had family members who read to them daily.

In general, levels of maternal education were positively related to the percentage of children who were read to, told stories, or sung to daily. A smaller percentage of children whose families spoke a language other than English in the home were read to, told stories, or sung to daily than children whose families spoke primarily English in the home.

Although this is US data, it is not a stretch to suggest that a mother’s education plays a crucial role in her children’s success as learners. It is not a matter of parental aptitude; it is simply an inability to assist your child in learning basic skills.

We call the United States a melting pot. Now, through technology, we can all be connected to celebrate, to learn, to share. Yes, there are cultural boundaries to cross … but geography no longer limits us. Neither should language.

Thankfully, with organizations like Literacy.orgProLiteracy, Reading is Fundamental, Reach Out and Read, and others, we have ways not only to encourage reading, but also help our neighbors and friends understand that becoming literate doesn’t have to be scary.

Image Credit: Brian’s Jack o’Lantern on

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