Many people associate poor literacy skills with poor upbringing, poor backgrounds and sometimes even poor choices. The issue of illiteracy is far too complex to be ‘blamed’ on any one thing. However, many studies show that the socio-economic status of a child will impact on her ability and even motivation when learning to read.
Last year, I participated in a Professional Development Course called Understanding Poverty. Much of the research and theory for the course comes from the US but it isn’t difficult to find parallels in Australia. The related textbook, A Framework for Understanding Poverty was written by Ruby K. Payne and defines poverty as “the extent to which an individual goes without internal or external resources”.
The ‘resources’ are grouped into seven categories including financial, mental, emotional, relationships and access to support systems. During the workshop portion of the course many of my colleagues expressed shock at how harsh poverty can be, especially on a child. Payne, also distinguishes between types of poverty and explains why a child born into Generational Poverty must break the cycle to succeed. This is much easier said than done.
Payne defines generational poverty as families who have lived in poverty for at least two generations, meaning children of parents in poverty grow up to live in poverty themselves. By contrast, families in situational poverty have fallen into poverty because of a traumatic event such as illness or divorce.
A colleague shared this video with me after we had completed the course. Four Corners (a current affairs program on Australia’s ABC) takes viewers into a public housing estate in western Sydney. They interview children, teenagers and families in their homes. They focus on the impact of poverty on the children. Regardless of your current occupation (teacher, educator, doctor, office worker, parent) this video is worth 45 minutes of your time. Consider the children in this video. Consider the parents.
Click to view Four Corners: Growing Up Poor
Is it any wonder they can’t read?
The Literacy Coach