Recently, as I was teaching students about the importance of reading and writing, I shared the story of a parent who came into my office one day many years ago in tears. On that day, this parent told me a secret.
I’ve shared this story with many children in many classrooms over the years. And always, when I ask the students what secret she might have told me (and I explain that it’s connected to what we’ve just been talking about), there are many guesses before they hit on the actual answer, if they ever do. I watch their faces as they begin to understand what I’m telling them.
The idea that an adult, a mom, could be illiterate is beyond comprehension for most of our kids. They take literacy for granted, and perhaps rightly so, given their experience.
But I ask them to predict the feelings that would be associated with illiteracy. I also ask them to imagine every day situations without the ability to read and write: buying groceries for a child with allergies, reading a menu in a restaurant, trying to help a child with homework, or filling out a job application.
During these conversations, the importance of reading and writing tends to hit home for these students. This week as we were wrapping up the discussion, a grade three girl said to me, “We have to read and write our whole lives… let’s just give it a chance!”
I smiled. Yes, let’s.