Saturday, September 18, 2010

Great Writers Started as Avid Readers

The statistics regarding the illiteracy that is becoming rampant in our society are appalling. Would you be astonished to learn that Cuba, Barbados, Kazakhstan and Belarus have higher levels of literacy than the USA?Although the term literacy is defined by various parameters depending on the agency or institution performing the study and analysis, the common thread is the ability to cognitively understand written instruction or direction.

The ability to read and comprehend the written word directly impacts the same individual’s ability to compose and scribe grammatically correct text. When you consider that 21-23 percent of the adult population in the United States is deemed illiterate, that infers that almost a quarter of the youngsters educated during their lifetimes were passed through the school system without acquiring the ability to read and lacking basic writing skills.

Educators, however, are not solely responsible for the present levels of illiteracy. Those same children passed through the educational system also needed their parents to help instill a love of reading in the younger generation. I have often been told by parents that their children prefer to play on the computer rather than read a book. My response is usually simple - reading is reading, whether on a paper page or a computer screen. Recommend sites that provide electronic books and electronic readers that can be downloaded to their computer.

Instilling a love of reading in our youngsters should be a primary goal for both parents and educators alike. Aside from being a springboard for future learning when enrolled in college courses, a love of reading opens avenues left untraveled by the illiterate. The written word can transform melancholy to joy, touch our souls, set our imaginations free and allow one to visit faraway lands without leaving your home. In addition to the freedom of thought that reading can nurture, the ability to write and compose texts properly is directly related to one’s ability to read.

As technology has become a basic thread is almost everyone’s life, the levels of illiteracy that has invaded society is also quite apparent on the worldwide web. Numerous sites have posted web content that would not meet the scrutiny of an elementary school teacher. With improperly conjugated verbiage, misspellings galore and punctuation that defies any parameters, it becomes blatantly obvious that there are many who are unable to compose simple texts. Professional copywriters cringe when they review some of the content they are hired to rewrite.

So, how do we develop the next generation of superlative writers? Simple, we must first develop a generation of readers. Writing, excelling as an author, requires not only highly developed language skills, but also a passion for the craft. Not every avid reader will become a great writer, but every great writer must be able to read. The love of reading must be sown, from the time a child is very young and throughout their adolescent years. The actual mechanics of the process and tools utilized are secondary to nurturing the desire, igniting the passionate fire to immerse oneself in a story. Whether using books in hard print or via an electronic medium, the object is the reading, not the method of delivery. Romeo and Juliet is the same Shakespearean classic whether you have it in print or are reading it online.

As a nation and society, we have a fiduciary responsibility to the next generation. If everyone set aside one hour a week to share their passion for reading with a child, any child, page by page, we would be altering the possible outcome. So, the next time you are contemplating an activity with your child, grandchild, niece, nephew or neighbor, consider your local library, where the world awaits you on the shelves. Not only will you contribute to their reading abilities, but you may spark the passion that brings the world their next bestselling author.