It’s now over 50 years since Rudolf Flesch released his blockbuster book “Why Johnny Can’t Read,” questioning some of education’s failures in the US, particularly in reference to literacy. Now half a century later, the problem continues, and educators face even more struggles teaching in classrooms that not only face the kind of socioeconomic diversity that have characterized the challenge of public schooling for years, but now a new kind of challenge has taken hold. Many students, particularly in the Latino community (15% of all non-institutionalized citizens by the March 2006 census), come from backgrounds in which the first language is not English or English is not spoken in the home.
In reference to this demographic, Richard Riley, former Secretary of Education (1993-2001) in the US commented in his March of 2000 speech, “54 percent of all teachers have limited English proficient (LEP) students in their classrooms, yet only one-fifth of teachers feel very prepared to serve them.”
In response to this state of affairs, the NCFL, our partner in US literacy, sponsors hundreds of programs all around the US and they have never been more important than today. You don’t have to become a teacher to help the situation, check out the NCFL’s website for ideas. Their latest approach offers “five $600,000 educational grants to benefit hispanic and other immigrant families for literacy efforts.” It’s not just Johnny who can’t read.