AUBURN, Wash. - "Read Across America" is an annual event, celebrated at
elementary schools across the country on the birthday of Theodor
Geisel, the author better known as Dr. Seuss. This year, it takes place
Experts say kids who don't grow up reading can have lifelong learning
problems and, at the college level, instructors see it every day. Carol
Perdue teaches reading at Green River Community College in Auburn. Some
of her students are immigrants who didn't go to school in their home
countries, and are now frustrated at being illiterate in two languages.
And, she says, there's a stigma about being unable to read.
"It's easier to say that you can't do math. People will say, 'Oh, I
hate math, I can't do math,' and somehow, that's not such a blow to the
ego. But to say that you can't read; that lack is not as forgivable,
and it's harder on the ego."
Perdue points out that learning to read isn't easy, for kids or adults,
and says TV shows or CDs are no substitute for one-on-one teaching time
and attention. The National Center for Education Statistics reports one in ten Washington adults lacks basic literacy skills.
At Seattle Central Community College, Marcella Pendergrass works with
students who have graduated from high school but failed college
entrance exams. She says most of them recognize words on a page or
screen, but they have a hard time getting meaning out of what they see.
"Now, more than ever, we need to encourage ourselves and our children
to read critically and, more importantly, to not just accept what they
see or hear, that other people have put out there."
Pendergrass thinks that because people today are bombarded with
information, they learn to skim things rather than spending time on
reading them. A study by the Center for American Progress suggests reading skills would be improved by teaching more vocabulary in grade schools, and by lengthening the school day.