Educator Resource: Making Literacy A Priority For Inner City Students

The value of a good education cannot be understated. Statistics show college education, even with a two-year degree, increases weekly income potential by hundreds of dollars over someone who does not graduate from high school, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. One key to improving children’s chances of making it all the way to college revolves around early literacy programs that get them interested in reading, writing, and learning. A paradox to improving literacy is that kids from impoverished neighborhoods have a harder time learning in school, even though education leads to those higher incomes later in life. Here are ways to help kids succeed from educational experts.


Test scores for schools are a major factor in obtaining state and federal funding to improve salaries and learning conditions. Unfortunately, the testing model may leave some kids behind as teachers focus on the classroom as a whole rather than the learning styles of each individual. Misha Arbanel, writing for the Huffington Post, advocates a teacher-centered model, rather than a policy-centered paradigm, to help pique the educational interest of children in elementary school.

School districts dictate curriculum choices and professional development. However, teachers sit at the front lines of public education, and they see what happens in classrooms every day. Experts suggest teachers should have a say in what they teach. Instead of fixed curricula, educators should have the freedom to develop inquiry-based learning models that tailor explorations according to each student’s interests. If Charlie wants to learn about dinosaurs, focus on activities that foster that interest. When Rachel wants to learn about the inner workings of an iPad, start a line of inquiry for her.

Instead of prescribing curriculum on a mass scale, districts should collaborate with teams of teachers to improve literacy, student interest, and overall learning. Test scores naturally follow, but the first item on the agenda must include creating pupils who are passionate about learning. That means teachers should pay attention to student interests and adapt to them.

Education Technology

Education technology assists teachers and parents in the quest to make better learners at a young age, according to Teachnology. Most schools have computer labs that teach children basic computer skills from day one. Computers offer several ways to improve literacy rates, but the difficulty remains getting this technology into the hands of impoverished children who need it most. Some families may not be able to afford a $99 laptop and the Internet connection to go with it.

Social networking websites, educational resources on the Internet, and special learning programs that use games to improve literacy all contribute to the interest of students. Federal funding, grants and non-profit agencies can help give school districts equipment within the classroom, but the education gap stops when kids do not engage with the same technology at home. Parents should help out whenever they can at home, although finding time to help children learn can present a challenge for people who already work hard to provide regular meals for their children.

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Adolescent Literacy

Many districts focus on the literacy of elementary school children and then drop the ball when it comes to adolescent literacy in middle school. Part of the problem stems from kids who didn’t receive enough reading help during their elementary years. Statistics published in 2000 showed how schools needed to help younger kids read, but the National Reading Panel report left out how to take middle-schoolers to the next level. Even though young kids love reading “Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type,” that doesn’t help older kids understand “Of Mice and Men.”

In 2004, agencies published more research that promulgated ideas for teaching literacy skills for older grades. Conclusions based on those studies advocate several ways to help older students, according to AdLit. Teachers must make student literacy a priority for all grade levels, and educators must get struggling pupils the help they need. This support must come from leaders as well as teachers, while more teaching should focus on reading and writing incorporated into specific subject areas.

In-school and at-home support for child literacy remain the keys to getting kids out of impoverished situations. Illiteracy in poor neighborhoods, which in turn leads to more poverty, doesn’t have to be passed on to the next generation.

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