A recent book addressing education reform helps to demonstrate why adult education is important. The fact that policymakers in DC concerned with improving K-12 education are likely to read The Smartest Kids In The World And How They Got That Way should put this book on the radar of adult education advocates too.
Amanda Ripley, the author, an Emerson Fellow at the New America Foundation, confirms through her research what adult education advocates have been insisting for years.
Ms. Ripley writes that many parents and children in American schools participate in the PTA and regularly attend open houses and parent-teacher conferences at the schools their children attend. But there is something even more important to helping children succeed in school.
Ms. Ripley writes that results from the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment), an international ranking used to score proficiency of students in subjects including mathematics, reading, and science, demonstrate the importance of having parents read to their children. She writes, "Parents who read to their children weekly or daily when they were young raised children who scored twenty-five points higher on PISA by the time they were fifteen years old. That was almost a full year of learning." (p. 110-111).
There's more. Parents who read for "pleasure" are helping to show their children why reading is important. The children follow the example that their parents are setting. “That pattern held fast across very different countries and different levels of family income. Kids could see what parents valued, and it mattered more than what parents said,” notes Ms. Ripley.
Only 40% of the parents surveyed by the PISA did read for pleasure prompting Ms. Ripley to wonder what parents would do if they knew that just spending more time reading might help their children to become better readers too.
Many LVA learners come to classes and tutoring sessions to improve their reading skills because they want to share the pleasure of reading with their children. They know, sometimes from painful experiences in trying to obtain jobs, that education is increasingly important to obtaining positions that pay well.
Indeed, Ms. Ripley recounts on page 182 a conversation she had with an American businessperson on how jobs are changing. The businesswoman tells Ms. Ripley that today's maintenance workers must now "be able to understand technical blueprints; communicate in writing what had happened on their shifts; test possible solutions to complex, dynamic problems; and, of course, troubleshoot and repair major mechanical systems."
Give LVA's adult learners credit. They often know through intuition and experience what Ms. Ripley uncovered through her research about the importance of reading to their children and the need to improve their own skills so they can obtain the jobs that will best enable them to provide for their families.
Increasingly, educators are coming to realize the vital links that exist between adult literacy, adult education and pre-K-12 school reform. The Academy of Hope made that link clear at a forum held this fall. Ms. Ripley's book provides more evidence. Advocates of adult literacy have to make sure that policymakers in DC and nationally realize it too.
The Smartest Kids In The World And How They Got That Way is available through the DC Public Library.
LVA's success in using book clubs to invigorate adult learning is helping to turn non-readers into readers.
Rita Daniels, Executive Director of LVA, and LVA instructor Marilyn Lowry, hosted a panel discussing "Book Clubs: A Short-Term Summer Program Or Summer Project," which was presented earlier this month at the U.S. Conference on Adult Literacy. ProLiteracy sponsors the conference. Ms. Daniels and Ms. Lowry explained how the book club program was launched in Summer 2012 to ensure continued reading by learners at a time when they are less focused on intensive classroom learning.
"It's a way for club members to enjoy reading," Ms. Lowry explained, noting that the books she uses revolve around stories learners consider to be "relevant" to their lives. One favorably received work is "The Time Machine" by H.G. Wells.
Clubs, particularly those with learners of low literacy, are limited to just 3 or 4 members. Clubs reading books by notable children's authors such as Eric Carle are larger with a membership of eight or more learners. The children's book clubs encourage learners to read the books with their children or grandchildren.
Maintaining reading skills over the summer is not the only benefit of the clubs, however.
Learners "came together and started to know one another more," believes Lowry, who uses ice breakers upfront in the early sessions, to encourage learners to share stories about themselves before proceeding with the reading of the book.
Reading the book can also help the learners to reflect more about their lives.
Ms. Lowry maintains that books dealing with history, science fiction, adventure, and historical fiction are likely to interest adults. It is useful to show a movie or television program, whenever possible, based on the book before starting the reading.
Connecting the plot and incidents in the books with the lives and experiences of the learners is important. So is making the effort to introduce learners to the words in the text that would otherwise be unfamiliar to them.
Leitha Wilson, Lead Instructor for LVA, says LVA has held 24 books clubs over the past two summers. Based on the strong interest shown by LVA learners participating in the summer book clubs, Ms. Daniels told panel attendees, "We are looking to expand the book club project to continue all year. The clubs represent another avenue for LVA learners to become better readers."
More information about LVA's book clubs can be obtained by contacting Ms. Daniels at email@example.com
When instructors at the day care program that Isaiah, 3, attends provide him with a list of children's books to read, his mother, Tiffany Matthews, will check them out at the library.