Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Value of Community Initiatives

There is an excellent article here in the New York Times about how community initiatives can help children with high ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) scores.  The author, David Bornstein, gives a good deal of background information on how these initiatives have been funded, and the kinds of community changes they have caused.  The heart of the programs is that local residents identify and lead these changes.  The one I loved was the community that helped their residents who were victims of domestic violence by having the entrance to the shelter go through the local police station.  This sent the message that the police were going to protect victims.  I strongly recommend your reading this whole article.

Here is my "reading" take on it:  Besides a high ACE score, the other thing to pay attention to is the rate of functional literacy in children.  There are many studies on literacy rates, but a blog article by Mike Tikkanen quotes Rubin Rosario's statistics that  show that 85 percent of juveniles who come in contact with the juvenile justice system are functionally illiterate.

I don't know anything about Rosario's work, but I do know that my almost forty years in a high school classroom teaching English make me a believer in them.  The kids in trouble were so often the kids who cold barely read.  Poor reading scores ensure that kids will have trouble in all of their classes.  Kids who rarely read also lack the experience of seeing the world through the eyes of different narrators, and so become hardened in their own often dysfunctional view of how the world works.

The solution to this problem is much like the local initiative solutions that Bornstein describes:  well-funded school libraries, curricula that is shaped to be interesting to the local students, parent literacy outreach programs, etc.  National tests and curicula just throw cold water over local efforts to turn kids into avid readers.

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