Perspectives on Whole Child Literacy

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The State of Literacy…The Gateway to All Learning

Categories: Audiobook Library, Curriculum & Access, Early Literacy, Education & Teaching, Educators, Reading Strategies for K-12, Student Centric Learning, The Digital Age, Whole Child Literacy

Illiteracy has become such a serious problem in our country that 130 million adults are now unable to read a simple story to their children. What if you couldn’t read above a third-grade level…follow a recipe, find a doctor, locate a destination on a map, or understand your child’s report card? Life would be challenging to say the least. Approximately 50% of Americans read so poorly that they are unable to perform simple tasks such as reading prescription drug labels. 

According to ProLiteracy, 54% of adults in America read below a 6th grade level. There are more than 43 million adults who cannot read or write above a third-grade level. Children of adults with low literacy skills are 72% more likely to have a low reading level in school. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), estimates 65% of fourth graders in the U.S. read below proficiency levels, and these students are 400% more likely to drop out of high school. 

Low levels of literacy result in $225 billion losses in U.S. workforce productivity, correlates to more juvenile and federal crimes, and greater dependence on social welfare programs.  In the world, illiteracy costs the global economy $1.5 trillion annually. If all children in low-income countries had basic reading skills, 171 million people could escape extreme poverty. 

Lack of literacy skills affects vulnerable and marginalized populations in greater proportions – Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC); low income; multilingual learners; and people with learning disabilities.

Literacy begins at home 

A child’s home, community, and school all play significant roles in creating holistic environments in which a child learns to read. Family literacy and access to reading material is critically important in early reading development. This is the time when parents and caregivers  must build a home learning environment that supports academic performance when a child enters school. 

Reading to a child just twenty minutes a day enables them to experience new viewpoints. Speaking with a child about any topic expands their thinking, widens their world view, and fosters their agency to build background knowledge, a critical component to reading comprehension mastery. 

Literacy in early childhood 

In early childhood, children must acquire all the essential skills necessary to become successful learners to effectively move on to complex material and study grade level texts. At this stage, our brains are adept at learning new information, and children are sponges for knowledge. Yet, according to the Children’s Reading Foundation, 40% of children are entering kindergarten one to three years behind. 

Fundamental reading skills 

Immersing children in language-rich environments with evidence-based reading instruction that is grounded in the science of reading and brain-based learning, enables children to comprehend more of what they read, especially those with reading difficulties. These fundamental skills for reading mastery are critically important: 

  • oral language (listening and speaking), 

  • the alphabetic code (ability to discriminate sounds in words and vocabulary), 

  • print knowledge concepts (understanding meaning, letters and sight words), and 

  • writing. 

Learn more about the definitions of these skills in this guide, Beyond the Buzzwords Glossary.

Literacy is for ALL people

At Learning Ally, we believe literacy is for everyone. Improving literacy skills will improve democracy, and support diversity, equity, and inclusion. It will improve our mental and physical health, our social and emotional well-being, our relationships, and our world. 

Learning Ally partners with schools, educators and families to solve the literacy crisis through education, access, supplementary reading tools, and professional learning programs to share important information about how the brain learns to read and the science of reading.  We foster a community of educators and parents, and stand behind a whole child literacy™ approach to encourage more educators to take a holistic view of the variables surrounding each child’s learning abilities, potential, and differences. Literacy is the gateway to all learning. It is Learning Ally’s mission, and we want to help you open the gateway so every child can learn, grow and succeed. 


Prosperity for America - 84+ Literacy Statistics in the United States

The World Literacy Foundation - The Economic-Social Costs of Illiteracy

The National Literacy Institute

Valerie Chernek writes about educational best practices through the use of technology and the science of reading in support of teachers, children, and adolescents who struggle with learning differences. 

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