The issue of literacy is not just about reading, but about early language development, reading, and writing. It’s not just about young children but about older children and adults. And it’s not just an urban problem, not just about communities of color, not just a problem of poverty. We know that literacy is not situational, as poverty can be. Cure illiteracy in a family in one generation, and you’ve cured it in perpetuity in that family. Do it throughout the community, and you transform the community.
We are working hard to become a literacy community, one in which everyone reads and writes well. It’s easy to take this important element of a college-going culture for granted if you are a member of the middle class, the product of college-educated parents, in a community with a high percentage of college-educated adults, one in which homes are full of print material.
We need to create a school community that is fully literate, and we are moving strongly in that direction. But we have a long way to go before we are a community that has fully eradicated illiteracy, a community in which our expectation is that every child is capable of extracting substantial meaning from text. For that is what is necessary in a 21st century economy.