In another enlightening discussion with Mr. Completo, the teacher librarian I am interning with, I learned about the master authority on read-alouds: Jim Trelease. In the 1990s and early 200s he held hundreds of workshops reporting on the importance of reading aloud to children. He has since retired from the lecture circuit, but over the years he has compiled a lot of research that indicates reading aloud to children from birth can positively influence their love of reading over their lifetime. Trelease has compiled a lot of his research into informative pamphlets posted on his website and he allows people to redistribute them as long as they ask permission first. Trelease writes about the very real inequities between the number of words a child from a wealthy family hears before age 4 (school age) and the number of words a child from a poor family hears in the pamphlet, . Remarkably it is about three times the number of words. This can probably be explained by multiple factors, but the end result is still the same. Poor children enter school more often with a huge disadvantage and yet, the academic demands impressed upon these children is the same. Surely, those kids who come from a poor family and whose parents had the time to read to them will excel, but for the vast majority this can explain higher school dropout rates in communities of lower SES, lower wages and educational attainment, as well as the perpetuation of the poverty cycle, and compounded with other inequitable institutions, a diminished likelihood of upward mobility.
So Mr. Trelease’s solution is to educate parents, and since the majority of my students are already adults and/or parenting this is vital information to share with them. But what else can be done to assist them in their path toward literacy? Our students are often children who started out with a disadvantage who are now grown up and this disadvantage has continued to plague their experience in school. How do they make up for this lost time?