Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What is 21st century literacy? Is traditional reading at risk?

I came across an article in the (you may be required to register to view articles...its free) called "Reading's new chapter?" that discusses the debate over reading literacy levels of students in the USA.

NEA (National Emdowment for the Arts) has released a report called "To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence" [download pdf version] that hilights Americans are reading less and doing it with lower reading abilities.

Some of the highlights from the report:

  • Nearly half of all Americans ages 18 to 24 read no books for pleasure.
  • People ages 15 to 24 spend only seven to 10 minutes per day on voluntary reading (about 60 percent less than the average American).
  • Reading scores for 17-year-olds are down, while those for 9-year-olds are at an all-time high (ground that is lost in adolescence).
  • Even while reading, 58 percent of middle- and high-school students are watching TV, listening to music or using other media.
  • Literary readers among college graduates dropped from 82 percent in 1982 to 67 percent in 2002.
Is the problem really about reading levels or is it the ability to change the assessment tools and standards to reflect digital literacy?

I blogged a while back about hand writing and questioned if this skill is one that could be lost? Through my own discovery and understanding from discussions with colleagues and further research, I have come to the belief that it is a skill that is evolving and changing. Could the same then be said for reading?

Should students be forced to read books? Are books the answer for the 21st century learner or are there other types of communication that will be equally or more important for the future success of these learners? Are education systems around the world evolving fast enough and in the right direction for the needs of these learners?

As governments struggle to find the magic formula that will put their people...their country ahead in the 21st century. We can not afford to hang onto old schools of thought and we need to be prepared to scary as that can be.

The 21st century learner is different than previous generations...everything around them has helped this evolution. Technology has given us instant communication, the ability to author our own media presentations and publications, and technology has given us an easy and accessible route to submit our opinions and comments...such as this blog. The 21st century learner thinks about the world very differently and has always had access to it at the touch of a keyboard. and innovation gave civilization the courage to realize the world wasn't flat.

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