Early Literacy

Illiterate: Why this word can be damaging

When a child is unable to read, we should veer away from the term,, “illiterate.” Young learners, whether able or unable to read, all go through a process.

When a child is unable to read, we should veer away from the term, “illiterate.” Young learners, whether able to read or unable to read, all go through a process. It takes many steps, but with the right mindset and support, they will surely get there.

The ability to read and comprehend is non-binary. Educators have varying standpoints on the reading milestones of children. They say that by a certain age, a child must be able to read at a specified level. But what if they can’t?

We believe that each child takes on a different learning journey on their own. Some may progress quite fast, while others take on a slow and steady pace. Either way, all roads lead to the same destination – where every learner confidently achieves a bright future.

Now, more than ever, is the time to challenge this common misconception about learning. In doing so, we become more equipped to better address the issues surrounding literacy.

Avoid Comparison

Our blog post on low report card marks discussed how comparing one child to another can be more damaging rather than constructive. Pinning a child’s achievements against their peers can lower self-esteem and demotivate. Let’s keep in mind that being behind in learning is just as normal as being ahead. Learning to read takes a lot of time, effort, and patience. 

Be Mindful of Our Words

In today’s society, labeling someone as illiterate is ableist. It can be a form of prejudice and discrimination towards people with varied reading abilities. Be aware, this language does not only apply to children, but to adults as well. There are adults who can read, but struggle with making sense out of written and spoken words.  As outsiders looking in, our role is to be as supportive as we can, and to build up others rather than putting them down. 

If you ever hear the term illiterate in a conversation about children and grown-ups, how should you react?  Use the terms, “emerging readers” or “struggling readers” to describe kids, as well as be mindful of language in other settings. Everyone benefits from support and encouragement. 

Use Learning Supports

Speaking of supports, families will always have a helping hand in navigating these waters. There are online reading resources providing materials that match every child’s reading level. Finding topics that spark interest in the reader can be an excellent jumping point. You can also play games that use letter sounds and words to enhance fluency skills.

It also helps to have an open line of communication with your child’s educator. While it can be a bit stressful to address these concerns during a parent-teacher interview, it should be seen as an opportunity. It’s a chance to work together towards meeting your young learner’s goals.

Above all, let’s never stop reading to our children. Reading words in an educational video or from a good story book at bedtime – any progress is still progress. Let’s explore activities where they can strengthen their literacy skills and have fun at the same time. Help them discover the world around them to encourage curiosity and to build confidence. In every aspect, family is the strongest learning support an emerging reader can have.

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