Developmental Perspectives: Unraveling The Myth of Illiteracy

V. Eddie Parker Ed.S.

What Is Illiteracy

Examine the average academic reference tool, and one will discover that the term illiteracy refers to a person that cannot read. Many reading specialists, developmental specialist, and educators believe this perception to be the result of a general observation over empirical fact. Just as electricity takes the least path to resistance, the brain takes the quickest path to comprehension. Based on research by the Canadian Literacy Foundation (CLF), I hypothesized that illiteracy is a intellectual disability resulting in low to mid-level cognition that hampers human interaction and social aggregation in the context of education, economics, entertainment, labor, law, politics, war, religion, and sex (chromosome factor). 

In my opinion, it appears that beyond medical infirmities, illiteracy tends to be related to a series of inter-related parental causes which in turn create a matrix of challenging social barriers for individuals that fall victim to this dreaded developmental discourse. Additionally, other theorists suggest that parents with little schooling combined with the lack of stimulation as to the importance of reading during child rearing contribute significantly to what has become a perpetuated paradox of adult functional illiteracy. Being intrigued by these facts, I embarked on a journey to unravel the myth of illiteracy.

Exploring The Illiteracy Myth

Arguably, one of the greatest rewards of research is the study of original empirical facts to uncover the elusive pin-hole. To understand the pin-hole theory, take a hat-pin and stick a hole on a sheet of color paper. The color represents empirical fact while the pin-hole represents a question still to be answered by virtue of investigative research. For example, worldwide immunization programs have eradicated smallpox disease. However, the origin of the variola virus that caused the outbreak is still being investigated by epidemiologist. I applied this analogy to the concept of illiteracy based on the fact that reading skills for Americans increased significantly after the second world war however the root cause of illiteracy still warrants investigation to this day. Pearson (1990) “The comparison of the effects of three prereading advance organizers on the literal comprehension of fifth-grade social studies materials” suggest that reading is an innate process that begins with “advance organizers” simulating the neurotransmitters known as synapses.

To put it where the goats can get it, advance organizers are the sounds waves of a parent’s voice the enters the ear channel as they read to a child, in some cases beginning with the third trimester of pregnancy as a stimulus for language acquisition and grammatical structure which is subsequently reinforced by parental constructs within the home environment. This theory proved to be sound seeing how the post-war era of the fifties ushered in modern suburbia denoting family axioms that all Americans were expected to adhere to.  It was this thesis that subsequently provided me with a plausible argument on the root cause of functional illiteracy.

Some Compelling Factors

While investigating the reading levels of fifth-grade children who were having problems reading on grade level, I concluded that illiteracy extended beyond the basic connotation of one not being able to read a basic sentence after concurring and deferring to the observations made by Harris & Hodges (1981) suggesting that inherent factors such as motivation, reading ability, and overall cognitive interest are critical to the learning process. Therefore in theory the more schemata one has for a given topic, the better the comprehension rate which in turn triggers further stimuli-interest that is administered by the event of reading. Subsequently while studying fifth-grade reading A and B sample groups it was discovered that the students who fail to meet state common core standards in reading were from a single-parent household, lived in urban dwellings, and prone to a substantial amount of video game playing. Compared to students from two-parent households in suburban communities where incomes were above the median income level with one member holding an academic degree.

In both cases, parents expressed concern for the academic enrichment of their children. However, the stress associated with single parenthood severely diminished the time needed to provide the scaffolding to employ cultural enrichment activities and enhanced reading skills in the form of home reading materials, visits to libraries, ethical dialogs, and positive praise. These findings led me to conclude that regardless of whether one abodes in the inner city, suburbia, or rural communities, deprivation of social engagement between child and parent in the context of cultural enrichment programs and being read too at birth can result in a state of functional illiteracy as documented by a courageous individual by the name of Cleo in conjunction with the ProLiteracy organization.

Joining The Fight

In conclusion I submit that it is important to recognize illiteracy as an inherent disability which can be fostered by a medical infirmity, social ineptitude, economic depravity, or parental inequity. Therefore, it is imperative that a reading curriculum be instituted at childbirth. Parents should make it a habit of reading to their children daily in addition to serving as an example by allowing their offspring to witness their personal reading behavior which in theory instills the axiom of reading by virtue of behavioral emulation and linguistic language acquisition. Additionally, with the event of video channels and podcasting, reading programs reminiscent of the age of radio are growing in popularity to restore the sense of family social-cohesiveness that smartphone technology is believed to have fragmented.

One notable program is the National Blackman Read Aloud Hour hosted by Joseph Sheldon Hall. The show takes a two-prong approach to combating functional illiteracy. First, it facilitates the aspect of human bonding associated with the synaptic pruning process (Feldman, 2014). Secondly, the reading material circumnavigates the standard if not ubiquitous Harriett Tubman literary content that permeates numerous school districts with informative literary works such as Skloot (2006) “The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks” who’s immortal human cells (HeLa) contributed significantly to the world of medicine. Therefore in concurrence with the aforementioned pro-activity, I emphatically submit that in addition to parental involvement, a combination of early childhood reading platforms and school-based reading programs are the key  to establishing a quantum state of resilience to combat the ubiquitous phenomena of functional illiteracy due to the author’s opinion that it will continue to be a perpetuated paradox within the realm of human development.


Visit Media Center




Leave a Reply

Notify of