Photo taken from Blush.com
It should be an acronym. It should be something more than it is, at least for me right now.The gory details of this horizontal position I have unfortunately found myself in the past three days are not necessary. The thoughts while stuck in this position are what count. See, in every lousy situation we find ourselves in, we also find ourselves in a state to accept a window of ideas to flutter open, if we allow, if we are open to it. So after day one I thought I better be open to something or I’m going to go nuts!
That’s when I watched this: https://www.facebook.com/apathappears. It is a trailer to the PBS show by the amazing Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. I have been following their work for years and while their work is often difficult to watch, it is life saving for millions of women and girls around the world. These journalists are courageous, thankfully tunnel visioned, and heroes to millions. With that viewing, the thoughts that have been simmering inside me for the past three years erupted. During those three years, I’ve been teaching kids who struggle with both poverty and learning to read. And while we all know that poverty and illiteracy often go hand in hand; this clip triggered something on a profoundly deeper level. While this clip was about the effects of poverty, my experiences with children who live in poverty and their struggle with literacy could not be ignored. Poverty+lack of literacy, if left unchecked = life time poverty. Literacy is THE ticket out of poverty. But even as I write this, I can’t discount the role of food security in that equation or the role of much needed mental health and physical health services for the children and their families. As a member of our school Wellness Team and Garden Leader I have worked hard to get the message that high quality organic food = deeper, more successful learning. This is not a simple message to deliver when government subsidies do not support this notion for children in high poverty schools. So while many of us across the country continue to acknowledge and focus on that need, I continue to lay here and reflect on the role of literacy support in breaking the cycle of poverty.
That’s when I came across this simple article, Getting Over the Third Grade Threshold: http://www.reading.org/literacy-daily/classroom/post/engage/2015/01/29/getting-over-the-third-grade-threshold. It made me think about when I taught kindergarten years ago and the conversations we early elementary teachers would have when we discussed our struggling readers. We spent hours working to get these struggling readers reading by third grade. As well we should have. Reading by third grade is critical for a child’s success in school and this has been common knowledge for many years. What is new for me in this realization is the role poverty plays in this. Back then I taught at a local private school. Most kids were reading by time they left our kindergarten classrooms, so the struggling readers stood out. I am now teaching children in a literacy classroom in a high poverty school. I see poverty and its effects every day. The contrasts are startling. I reflect on this in some of my older posts. Many of our kids live in a world where they struggle everyday with poverty, food security, and lack of appropriate medical and mental health support.Where do we begin? In my opinion, we begin by serving high quality nourishing meals at the start of their days. We give them time to wash and brush their teeth. Then we give them many, many opportunities to read and write. And throughout all that we provide them with mental health services. We show them that they matter, that we love them, and that they are worthy and smart enough to learn to read. That they must learn to read.
So back to that acrostic that this should have been about:
P- Power – redistribution so all of our most vulnerable have the education they need
R-Reading – enough resources so the support for success is in place for all our kids
O-Obligatory- for all our schools, not just the wealthy
N- Neutralize – the playing field
E=Education- for all and the key to ending the cycle of poverty for our children