Posted by: Bob C. Cleckler | March 9, 2013

Why English Illiteracy Is Increasing

I remember learning in high school about how a nation’s wealth is directly linked to its literacy. Today, with more and more people in America unable to read, I have become a big advocate of aggressively teaching basic reading skills in school. It is important that children do not slip through the cracks, unable to read, because there are almost no jobs they can do without the ability to read. I think the spread of illiteracy should provoke people, those with the means, to try to develop solutions, so that everyone may have the chance to succeed later in life.

Despite, or possibly because of, our great leaps in technology, children are becoming less involved with the good old-fashioned 3 Rs, reading, writing, and arithmetic. Texting and writing online have become more about abbreviations. Spelling, punctuation, and grammar skills have almost become lost arts. The current propensity for spelling words with a simplified, more-phonetic combination of letters and numbers has developed into a very real lack of writing skills for much of today’s youthful generation. Writing in abbreviations has evolved into a language of its own. Much of today’s electronic communication is a “dumbed-down,” less-precise way of communicating, which cannot help but result in less-precise, less-profound, less-valuable ways of thinking. Parents, today, face an enormous challenge in bringing children back to the basics. And with technology bringing speech-recognition into so many electronic devices, even automobiles, meeting the challenges of surviving in an increasingly competitive, technological world requires careful attention.

A combination of more time-consuming pleasurable activities — radio; television; movies in theaters, on DVDs and on electronic devices; musical concerts or recordings; computer games; social networking; cell phones; internet browsing and searching; newly developed sports; profitable teenager jobs — which did not exist before the early twentieth century, as well as many negative distractions (newly developed drugs, gang activities, bullying, and broken homes and poverty due to easier divorce laws) along with the “dumbing-down” of electronic text messaging, has added to the decline in literacy. All of these reasons pale in comparison, however, to the difficulty of learning to read English caused by the illogical, inconsistent, and chaotic spelling system. This may be hard to understand by those who are familiar only with English spelling. Dr. Frank Laubach, who spent more than forty years teaching thousands of adults around the world to read in more than 300 alphabetic languages other than English, was able to teach his students to read fluently in from one to twenty days (!) in 95% of the languages in which he taught — because these languages were almost perfect phonetically: the words were spelled the way they sound. Dr. Laubach stated on page 48 of his book, Forty Years With the Silent Billion, “If we spelled English phonetically, American children could be taught to read in a week.”

Two non-profit educational corporations, Literacy Research Associates, Inc. and NuEnglish, Inc., have developed a perfect logical and simple spelling system called NuEnglish, such as Dr. Laubach recommended. As a result of the difficulty every one of us have had in learning to read, we erroneously look at learning any new spelling system as a huge undertaking. The truth is that present readers can learn the ten simple spelling rules for this spelling system in less than ten minutes, after which we will be able to read anything in NuEnglish with only a few two or three-second stumbles over some of the words. We will be able to progress from reading aloud only slightly slower than normal to reading silently at our present reading rate with only two or three months of familiarization.

Here is the most valuable, truly invaluable, aspect of this spelling system, however: The better beginning students (who have not learned to read English yet) will be able to learn to read in one week, and all but the most mentally challenged students will be able to read in less than three months — the same as Dr Laubach’s students did in ninety-eight percent of languages in which he taught. Most present students need at least two years to learn enough words to enable them to read well enough to keep increasing their reading skills after fourth grade in school, after which all but remedial reading instruction ends. And almost half of American students never become fluent readers. They may remember about a thousand simple words they learn in the first three or four grades, but they are functionally illiterate. They do not like to read and seldom do so. They cannot read and write well enough to hold an above-poverty-level-wage job.

An amazing new website describes our humanitarian project of permanently ending functional illiteracy in English. If you have any compassion whatsoever for an estimated 600 million English-speaking people around the world who are functionally illiterate in English (including more than 93 million adults in the U.S. alone), you are challenged to honestly examine this website. The home page can be read in six minutes. It has five brief statements about the problem and six brief statements about the solution. All eleven of these statements are conclusively proven in the “Read More” statements following each statement. If you are not in a mood to spend six minutes reading, you are challenged to click on “Media Page” near the top of the left-hand column and watch a video. Both the video and the home page give a good introduction to our humanitarian project. Some perceptive observers have labeled our present age as “The Age of Scepticism.” Some of the more sceptical readers will not be moved to action by the website. The website may not provide all the incentive to action needed. Even the most sceptical reader, however, will see the tremendous need for ending illiteracy and the details for doing so in the 265 page e-book second version of the award-winning book, Let’s End Our Literacy Crisis which is available free of cost or obligation of any kind in the left-hand column of the home page. A print version of the first revision of this breakthrough book is also available to help end our literacy crisis.

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