We live in the Information Age, a time marked by near-instantaneous access to just about anything you could ever want to know or learn about. With most of that information available as audio or video, some are wondering, “Why even bother with teaching reading or writing to the rising generation?”
Benjamin Heuston, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Waterford.org
Literacy — and specifically reading and writing — will always be the cornerstone of not just education but of our entire society. The reasons for this are straightforward and unchanging. First, reading uniquely allows us access to other people’s ideas, even if we are separated from them by time or distance. Second, writing allows us to share our own ideas clearly and in ways that are readily understandable. Paired together, reading and writing allow us to become educated about the world around us while also educating that world about us, a necessary condition for any healthy society.
Even more fundamentally, literacy allows us to refine and reflect upon our own ideas. Imagine not being able to capture your own thinking on paper — this would limit your ability to engage deeply with complex and nuanced ideas. As every English teacher probably told you, if you really want to understand something, try explaining it in writing – because only then will your own thinking become clear to you. We write, in essence, to better understand ourselves.
So, while it might seem like modern society is going to rewrite every rule in the book, the more information we need to sort through and the more complex global issues we need to tackle, the more we need to prioritize literacy. Indeed, one of the best ways we can help our society is to use emerging technologies to ensure that literacy is a birthright for every child.
While it might sound surprising to some that we need to start with children, over the past 25 years that I’ve worked at Waterford.org, that is precisely what the data shows — the path to success in school and in life begins with early literacy, first in the home and then in the classroom. While there are many good things we want for our children, literacy is not just good, it’s essential.