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Literacy an important first step in drop-out prevention

Nov. 08, 2012 @ 12:10 AM

Literacy is an important component in curbing the high school dropout rate. According to the West Virginia Department of Education's Adult Basic Education page, literacy is defined as, "the ability to read, write, and speak in English, and compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job and in society, achieve one's goals, and develop one's knowledge and potential." Literacy is the first step one takes in his/her academic education. It is the foundation block upon which all other content areas are built. Without the ability to read or to read fluently, learning other academic subjects like math, science, and social studies can seem insurmountable. The ability to read and write also aids in the development of a self-assured individual, living a healthy and independent life.

Literacy not only pertains to the ability to read and write; there are also different areas of literacy that focus on understanding the different types of information that surround our lives every day. These areas include financial, media, health, and document literacy. One literacy area that can affect the dropout rate in a significant way is family literacy. The family is where learning begins and involves the whole family reading together. A household that values education and promotes learning will increase the likelihood of a child succeeding in school significantly. Reading not only boosts vocabulary, comprehension, and writing skills, it brings families together and strengthens relationships. A family that values education will also be more likely to be involved with the teachers and administrators at a child's school, building a community of learning where achievement and skill development will flourish.

Many adults who come to Tri-State Literacy Council (TSLC) want to improve their reading skills so they can read to a child in their household, others come to TSLC because they wish to help their child with homework. We are ardent supporters of our students because we know the positive effects that literacy can have on the individual, family, and community. If we can help adults with their reading skills, they will ultimately increase the literacy levels of each member of their families. Building and strengthening a community that values education and literacy promises to decrease the dropout rate of our area's youth.

Decreasing the dropout rate has been a pressing issue, not just for our community, but for the nation. According to The Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS COUNT 2011 data, Cabell County has a 20.9 percent dropout rate. Since 2011, all levels of government as well as community organizations, have stepped up dropout prevention efforts in the hopes of increasing graduation rates. A person with a high school diploma or a GED is more likely to report higher earnings and more community involvement than someone who has not earned a diploma or GED. An educated and civically engaged community helps everyone; that's why increasing the high school graduation rate is of interest to the entire community. Education Matters is a community collaboration encouraging and facilitating community engagement around the value of education.

Emily Warder is director of Tri-State Literacy Council. Education Matters, an effort to prevent high school dropouts, is a project of the United Way of the River Cities.