Monday June 16, 2008 | Illiteracy in Mecklenburg County

June 15, 2008 at 11:07 pm | Posted in On Air | 8 Comments

Illiteracy rates are on the rise in Mecklenburg County.  Today, our panel of experts examines the causes for this rise and disscusses some of the programs and resources combating the problem.
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  1. In today’s world, computer literacy is as important as basic literacy. I have found that computers, with their access to all the information, helps people to learn language. Morever, the computer is a tutor that can be on call 24/7, as it were.

    Charlotte’s illiterate need full access to computers and the internet. Not just books. Not just teachers.

  2. Students are constantly being passed into and out of high school who cannot read. As a high school teacher, I see it often. Remember, schools are being rated on graduation rates, therefore, seat time is being used, as well as easy remedial programs to account for class time. The public (including parents) does not want to see students held back-even due to lack of performance. No one wants tracking in America thinking that education will lose students, when i reality, a lack of tracking is losing students. Some students need extra work in some subjects. Ask any teacher how treating all students as if they are college-bound is helping the general student. Schools need extra classes for those who have difficulty reading. I had a senior honors’ student who could not read the work “bough.” Last week I had a junior in high school who could not read the word “constantly.” Parents and administrators gang up on teachers to pass students who really do not deserve to pass high school. I have worked in several school districts and it has been the same in all of the districts. Teachers know that they cannot hold the students accountable without many “chances” to make up work, dishonestly or not. Social passing is a very real situation. All the money in the world for technology does not equal a small reading group with a human being guiding the students. As long as there are thirty students in a classroom, individual needs are difficult to meet. Please take away all the money being spent on electrical products, give us a classroom with a few students and books–even just a telephone book–and we will work with the students to help them read.

  3. I have worked as a teacher and in education for nearly fifteen years. The problem I see is that expectations for students are confused, excessive, and generally irrelevant. People learn best by doing what they perceive as important to time. District and State level educational bureaucrats fall over themselves creating overly-complex programs to cram “education” into unwilling, and often incapable individuals. They do not teach to individual strengths, but to achieve an official ideological, arrogant,muddled and draconian list of “standards.”

    Why do we force potential chefs, engine builders, arborists, a brick masons, etc. how to write a five paragraph expository essay to be considered “literate.” I question the whole notion of literacy– as defined by the educational bureaucracy. I have found people who are wonderfully skilled, but are illiterate– according to the State standards. So the result is we bore these people in a prison-like atmosphere, teaching them little of what they will need in the real world. No wonder so many drop out.

  4. Robin’s comment is so accurate. Teachers call it “drill and kill.” From elementary school on, students are drilled on the tests that are used to judge a school’s (and of course, a teacher’s) results. That is one situation that reduces the efficacy of education. Education is a misnomer, it is test success now. One of the by-products is that elementary school students do not feel a connection to school the way previous generations do. But regarding the importance of student’s needing technology as addressed by the speaker, the student does not need a $14,000 smart board in each classroom more than they need dictionaries. Technology is being overemphasized; it is not just knowing how to use computers. Of course, students must know how to use computers. But we are relying on gadgets too much and human connection too little.

  5. The Augustine Project at St. Peter’s (Episcopal Church)provides free, one-on-one tutoring in literacy skills to low income children and teens in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community.

    Augustine tutors are trained volunteers. They use a multi-sensory approach to improve reading, spelling, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension skills.

    We are offering a 70-hour training program that incorporates both classroom and supervised practicum components. Training is based on the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading using Wilson Reading System materials. Lessons follow an explicit format that is adapted to meet a students individual learning needs.

    Please contact our Project’s Director, Candace Armstrong, by e-mail at

  6. You can find more information on the Augustine Project at and

  7. There wasn’t enough time for everyone on the panel to get to some really positive things going on in Charlotte and the area to assist in addressing the literacy issues Charlotte and Mecklenburg County face. I’ve worked in the literacy advocacy realm for 5 years now, first with a program called Charlotte Reads, and now with the Public Library and what strikes me the most is right now our city and county are more engaged with the illiteracy issue than ever before. The Literacy Collaborative mentioned in today’s show is only the beginning.

    What wasn’t mentioned was quite numerous. I can only speak for the Library, but today alone was a huge move for positive action. The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County was awarded a $20,000 grant by the NEA to host the city’s first The Big Read in 2009. For the NEA’s release, please click here:

    This week the library, with partner the Charlotte Bobcats, hosts the 5th Annual D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read) Day at the Time Warner Cable Arena. D.E.A.R. Day is used to a) highlight the importance of reading for FUN and b) raise awareness that 20% of the people in our community cannot participate in D.E.A.R. Day because they cannot read.

    And next week, I’ll be hosting a Guys Read recruitment party at CANS to introduce male young professionals to the library’s Guys Read clubs. For a link to the Facebook invitation, click here:

    There is a lot happening! Let’s focus on the positives all around our community and get involved. It will take each person doing his/her part to really end this illiteracy battle.

  8. I am a CMS elementary school teacher and I began a pilot reading program at one of the schools that has now been designated a school with “strategic staffing.” The 2007/8 pilot took 1st grade reading scores (DIBELS) from 46% to 80%. I used 60 volunteers from Wachovia and community churches to read with students who did not get support at home. However, I had a huge volunteer dropout rate and ended up with 3 in May. I need some ideas. How can I get a troop of committed volunteers to support this very successful program?
    Thank you,
    Rebecca Soular

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