Kickapoo High Quarterly


Kickapoo High Quarterly


Kickapoo High Quarterly


A Rise in Illiteracy

It’s been joked on social media that Generation Alpha is illiterate, but the truth to it is more complex than one might think.
By taking the time to read with them, parents can play a role in building their childs literacy skills. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo by Oscar del Pozo
By taking the time to read with them, parents can play a role in building their child’s literacy skills. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

   It has been rumored across the internet that Generation Alpha (born 2010-2024) cannot read, sparking real concern amidst the many jokes. Research by the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics finds that reading scores have been declining since 2020, with 34 percent of fourth grade students being below basic reading level. 

   This decline in child literacy has been ascribed to a variety of reasons, such as a change in curriculum, an upsurge in devices, and their critical years of learning being spent in quarantine. 

   Proceeding into adolescence and adulthood, it is crucial to address these issues and the true reasons behind them as the World Literacy Foundation finds that lower literacy rates are associated with further academic struggles, dropouts, poorer employment, and more. As these children grow into teens, equipping these skills early on will help them thrive in our text-reliant world. 

   Horace Mann elementary teacher Michele Clark provides an inside look into why children are most struggling with reading today.

   “I would say one of the main things that is affecting reading instruction is attendance, like kids not coming to school. We have a lot of kids who miss school and who are not at school enough, so then they miss the instruction and they miss learning because we don’t do a lot of things on worksheets anymore,” Clark said. 

   Clark claims that ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, absences have increased and school has become less of a priority for elementary school students. This is important because worksheets have phased out over the years, making it more difficult to catch up on the lessons and activities missed. 

   As for the lessons themselves, many have pinned the rise in illiteracy to a change in the curriculum, rumoring that phonics (sounding out letters and syllables) is no longer taught in favor of memorizing sight words. However, Clark refutes this. 

   “We started a new phonics curriculum a couple of years ago, so we are focusing a lot more on phonics and the sounds and putting the sounds together to make words. We do still do the sight words for them, but now they have more strategies from their phonics to help them read the sight words, so that’s the main thing,” Clark said. 

   Ever since the change towards phonics, Clark has seen strong improvement in how children learn to read, but difficulties arise when students continuously miss out on learning these fundamentals. 

   Additionally, with the increase in devices among children, Clark has noticed further problems in sustaining their attention. Without the constant visual stimulation they are accustomed to, the students cannot keep focus, stunting their ability to read. 

   “I would say families now, especially at our school, probably don’t have as many books in the home as in the past. There’s more electronics, so they use their devices more. I think it’s hard to keep their attention for a long time because they need something to be visual and moving and in front of them,” Clark said. 

   As for what struggling students can do to improve their reading, Clark has a wide range of recommendations. Every kid has different needs, so she encourages families to reach out to their teachers and find what works best for them. 

   “I would say for parents to work with [their children] each. Ask the teacher for sight words that they could practice and they could make flashcards with them or ask for books. Here in Springfield, schools have access to a program called Reading A-Z and we can print books at the child’s level. It’s paper, so the parents wouldn’t even have to send them back,” Clark said. 

   In a time where attention spans are decreasing and books show up less and less in everyday life, it is vital for parents to make these accommodations and find an effective method of learning to read. Neglecting these concerns could cost children their futures moving forward.

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About the Contributor
Nadia Warren, Copy Editor