I was truly saddened as I watched Rachel Jeantel struggle to keep any modicum of pride and self respect that she could as she attempted to soften her letting the world know of her inability to read by stating that she could not read cursive. Ms. Jeantel looked to hold on to just a little bit of self esteem when she tried to make the issue her inability to read "cursive writing" and not her inability to read words. She did not say that she could not read her friend's handwriting or penmanship as we used to call it, which is maybe what she had hoped to convey, she said she could not read cursive which really meant that she could not read.
Many criticized or poked fun at the situation, but the truth of the matter is, Ms. Jeantel's inability to read is not a laughing matter at all. Someone or many "someones" dropped the ball including Ms. Jeantel because in order to be helped you have to seek it and accept it when it is given. The problem with this though is, Ms. Jeantel could not have been the only one who knew she could not read. Parents? Guardians? Teachers? Principals? Neighbors? Congregants? Pastor? Friends? Ms. Jeantel?
It is hard to believe that in 2013 we have people who are illiterate and yet we do. I am writing this post not to ostracize or criticize Ms. Jeantel, because the truth of the matter is, it really it not about her; but for those of us who are parents; guardians, teachers, principals, neighbors, congregants, pastors, friends, etc. etc. etc. to read to our children and have our children read to us. I cannot overemphasize the importance of being able to read, enough. There was no way as an advocate for reading and an avid reader, I could let this opportunity pass without taking it to encourage everyone to learn how to read and then if you know how to read, teach someone else how to read. I also need to be clear that reading is not just about being able to recognize the words as reading is much more involved than that. I oftentimes hear children say "I can read," and then when I ask them what the passage or story was about that they just read, they cannot do it. They look at me with a blank stare. The ability to decode words is different from being able to comprehend the combination of the words together. We must teach our children (and adults for that matter) how to decode, be fluent and be able to process the words in order for them to understand the information they are reading.
As an advocate for reading, it was painful for me to watch Ms. Jeantel because she symbolized so many people who will find it impossible to truly function in a society where reading is not an option but a requirement. Have you ever been in line at an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) behind someone who could not read or understand the ATM prompts? How about traffic signs? Menus? Directions? The list of things that must be read goes on and on. What type of jobs/careers will the Rachel Jeantel's of the world be able to ascertain? What type of salaries will they be able to earn? It's all connected and reading is one of if not the most important pillar.
I host a radio show on Saturday mornings where I interview authors with the hopes that those who are in the listening audience will increase their interest in reading. The intent and purpose of the show is to encourage people to read more. Reading can take you to other countries without you having to leave your recliner or sofa. There are so many benefits associated with reading such as being a better writer to a recent report in Men's Health News entitled The Pastime That Boosts Your Brainpower extolling how reading now strengthens your memory later in life.
Please share this post with anyone and everyone you can to help get the word out that we MUST read. Talk about it. Think about it. Strategize about how you are going to help someone who cannot read learn how to read and comprehend. The new Common Core Standards will require students to be able to read and comprehend "informational text" and they will not be able to do that by just decoding words. They will have to be able to decode the words, triangulate the information, explain what the writer meant to them and then cite in the text supporting evidence as to how they came to their conclusions.
This post is my little part in helping us to act to end illiteracy in both our children and adults. I implore all of us to read with our children. I implore all of us to have our children read to us. I implore all of us to turn off the television sets and every other electronic device and to sit down and read an old fashioned hard cover or paperback book. Rachel Jeantel ought to serve as yet another wake up call. The question for us is are we going to wake up or are we going to continue to hit the snooze button.
Something to critically think about and act on. I welcome your commentary in the comment section and you are invited to follow The Critical Thinker on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and on Tumblr @ thecriticalthinker01.tumblr.com. You are also invited to tune in to my radio show The Reading Circle with Marc Medley on Saturdays at 6 a.m. ET on gobrave.org and WP88.7 FM.
READ READ READ READ READ READ READ READ READ READ READ READ