Parent homework: Make friends with your local library

6 Jan

This is an absolutely jaw-dropping statistic. According the article, Opinion Brief: Detroit’s ‘shocking’ 47 percent illiteracy rate which was posted at The Week:

More than 200,000 Detroit residents — 47 percent of Motor City adults — are “functionally illiterate,” according to a new report released by the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund. That means they can’t fill out basic forms, read a prescription, or handle other tasks most Americans take for granted, according to the fund’s director, Karen Tyler-Ruiz, as quoted by CBS Detroit. Her organization’s study also found that the education and training aimed at overcoming these problems “is inadequate at best,” says Jackie Headapohl at Michigan Live.

Illiteracy is a global problem, with some geographic areas and populations suffering more from illiteracy than others.

Education Portal defines illiteracy in the article, Illiteracy: The Downfall of American Society.

Most people think of literacy as a simple question of being able to read. But while a young child who can work her way through a basic picture book is considered to have age-appropriate literacy levels, an adult who can only read at the most fundamental level is still functionally illiterate.
The world requires that adults not only be able to read and understand basic texts, but also be able to function in the workplace, pay bills, understand legal and financial documents and navigate technology – not to mention the advanced reading comprehension skills required to pursue postsecondary education and the opportunities that come with it.
As a result, when we talk about the effects of illiteracy on society, we’re talking primarily about what happens when you have a large number of adults whose literacy skills are too low to perform normal, day-to-day tasks. However, it is worth keeping in mind that childhood illiteracy is, of course, directly correlated to adult illiteracy.

The key concept is the individual cannot adequately function in the society in which they live. That means that tasks necessary to provide a satisfactory life are difficult because they cannot read and/or comprehend what they read.

ProLiteracy provides basic facts about illiteracy in the article, Basic Facts about Literacy:

Literacy is the ability to read, write, compute, and use technology at a level that enables an individual to reach his or her full potential as a parent, employee, and community member.
• There are 759 million adults–approximately 16 percent of the world’s population–who have only basic or below basic literacy levels in their native languages.
• Two-thirds of the world’s lowest literate adults are women (640 million women have basic or below basic literacy skills).
• In the U.S., 63 million adults — 29 percent of the country’s adult population —over age 16 don’t read well enough to understand a newspaper story written at the eighth grade level.
• An additional 30 million — 14 percent of the country’s adult population — can only read at a fifth grade level or lower.
• Forty-three percent of adults with the lowest literacy rates in the United States live in poverty.
• The United States ranks fifth on adult literacy skills when compared to other industrialized nations.
• Adult low literacy can be connected to almost every socio-economic issue in the United States:
o More than 65 percent of all state and federal corrections inmates can be classified as low literate.
o Low health literacy costs between $106 billion and $236 billion each year in the U.S.
o Seventy-seven million Americans have only a 2-in-3 chance of correctly reading an over-the-counter drug label or understanding their child’s vaccination chart.
o Low literacy’s effects cost the U.S. $225 billion or more each year in non-productivity in the workforce, crime, and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment.
• Globally, illiteracy can be linked to:
o Gender abuse, including female infanticide and female circumcision
o Extreme poverty (earning less than $1/day)
o High infant mortality and the spread of HIV/Aids, malaria, and other preventable infectious diseases

Many of those who are illiterate are successful in hiding the fact that they cannot read.

The University of Michigan Health Center explains why reading is important in the article, Reading, Literacy and Your Child:
What is literacy?

Literacy means being able to read and write.
Why is reading important?
A child’s reading skills are important to their success in school and work. In addition, reading can be a fun and imaginative activity for children, which opens doors to all kinds of new worlds for them. Reading and writing are important ways we use language to communicate….
There are many ways to include reading in your child’s life, starting in babyhood, and continuing through the teen years. Focus on literacy activities that your child enjoys, so that reading is a treat, not a chore.

Education is a partnership between the student, parent(s) or guardian(s), the teacher(s), and the school. All parts of the partnership must be active and involved. Parents are an important part because they enforce lessons learned at school by reading to their children and taking their children for regular library time.


More research about the importance of reading

The slow reading movement

The importance of the skill of handwriting in the school curriculum


Kathryn Schwartz of IPL2 wrote in Learning to research in the library:

Get to know your library
The resources available to you will vary a lot depending on whether you’re using an academic library at a large university, a public library in a large (or small) community, or a high school library. Find out early in your research project what resources your library has, by visiting and taking a tour, if possible. Some college libraries offer an online tour of the library or a self-guided tour using handouts in addition to tours guided by librarians.
Many people who use libraries don’t make full use of the reference collection except for the encyclopedias, while reference librarians have spent large amounts of money and time in developing wonderful reference collections for research. See Reference Sources in Libraries to see a small sample of the kind of information may be hiding in your library’s reference room.
Libraries build their collections based on what they think their patrons will need, so the collections of reference materials, fiction and non-fiction will differ between a public and an academic library. Be aware of what kind of collection you’re working with, and make arrangements to visit a different library if necessary.
Learn to browse – understand the classification scheme in your library
A library’s classification scheme is a system by which books are organized to be placed on the shelves. Browsing the shelves is an important step when you’re trying to get ideas for your research project, so it’s worth the effort to become familiar with your library’s system.
Most libraries in the U.S. use either the Dewey Decimal system or Library of Congress system, while Britain uses the UDC and other countries use various systems. All of the systems attempt to “co-locate” books with similar subject matter. In a smaller library, many times you can bypass the catalog as a starting point and go directly to the shelves for a first look at your topic, so long as you have a chart of the classification scheme as a guide.
Remember, though, that a book can have only one location in a library. Some books cover more than one subject and the cataloguer has to choose one place to locate the book. Also, non-book materials such as videos and films, will be located in a different section of the building and could be missed by simply shelf-browsing the book collection.
See our charts summarizing the Dewey Decimal Classification System and the Library of Congress Classification System.
Learn how online library catalogs work
A library catalog is a listing of all the items held by a particular library. A cataloguer examines the item (book, video, map, audio tape, CD, etc.) and decides how it will be described in the library’s catalog and under what subject it will be classified. When the item is entered into the library’s online catalog database, information is entered into different fields, which are then searchable by users.
Library catalogs usually treat a book as a single “item” and catalog it that way, even if it might be a book of poetry or a book of essays by different authors. You can’t find a reference to a particular poem in the library catalog, nor to a particular essay within a book of essays. The same is true of magazines, journals and newspapers. The library catalog will tell you if the library keeps a particular periodical in its collection, but will not list all the articles within the periodical, nor will it necessarily even list all the issues of the periodical which are kept. There are other publications in the reference room which will help you retrieve these individual items, but usually not the library catalog (see Reference Sources in Libraries for examples, as well as the Find out how to search for journals and newspapers section below).
Most catalogs are searchable by author, title, subject and keyword. Some of the important things you need to know about the information in those fields is discussed below.
Searching the catalog by subject and keyword
The subject field of a catalog record contains only the words or phrases used by the cataloguer when assigning a subject heading. If the library is using Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), for example, the subject heading for a book about how playing football affects the players’ bodies would probably be assigned the subject heading “Football—physiological aspects.” Unless you type in that entire phrase as your search term, you won’t find the book by searching the subject field.
Subject field searching can be very helpful, but you must find out how the subject you’re looking for is worded by using the subject manuals or getting help from the reference librarian. Once you zero in on an appropriate subject heading, a search in the catalog will give you a list of all the items in the library’s collection categorized under that heading, so you can browse the collection online. Note also that most items are classified under one or two very specific subject headings, rather than under many subjects.
The keyword field of a library catalog generally searches several fields in the database record—the author, title, and description fields. The description is any information about the catalogued item which may have been entered by the cataloguer. This is not the full text of the book, nor is it an abstract (summary) of the book but rather a short paragraph containing information the cataloguer thought would be helpful to a user. This is not like searching for keywords in an indexed database like Alta Vista on the internet, where every word in a document has been recorded.
For this reason, keyword searching alone could miss an item pertinent to your research project if the keyword you use was not included in the short paragraph written by the cataloguer. It’s best to use a combination of keyword searching and subject-field searching to make a comprehensive search of the library catalog.
Searching other libraries’ catalogs
There are lots of library catalogs on the internet—but so what? You can search the catalog of a library in Timbuktu, but that doesn’t get you the book. Remember that library catalogs do not have full text of books and documents but are just a database with descriptions of the library’s holdings. There are a few, and will be more, actual online libraries where you can go to read or search full text documents. Just don’t confuse these special resources with a library catalog, which is very different. See Reference Sources on the Web for links to online books.
Find out how to search for journals and newspapers at your library
Most libraries have either print, CD-ROM, or online (either in the library or sometimes on the Web) indexes of magazine, journal and newspaper articles (referred to as periodicals) available for users. Some of these are abstracts of the articles, which are short summaries written to describe the article’s contents in enough detail so that a reader can decide whether or not to seek out the full text. Some of these sources may be in the form of full text, where the entire articles have been entered into the database.
The databases will include particular periodicals published within a span of time (for example, a popular newspaper index goes back 36 months for certain major newspapers). Know what the database you’re searching contains and whether it’s represented as abstract or full text. Get some pointers from the reference librarian about how to search that particular database, and build on what you’ve learned about search syntax and search techniques from Skills for Online Searching.
Note that these resources, whether print or digital, contain information about periodicals which may not be held by your library. If the database does not have full text articles, you may find an article right on point to your topic, but that particular newspaper or journal may not be in your library’s collection. There are ways to get these articles, the fastest ways involving paying a fee to a company in the business of providing articles to researchers! Check out your options with the reference desk if you need an article that’s not in your library’s collection.
Bibliography surfing
Web surfing is finding an interesting Web page and then using the hyperlinks on that page to jump to other pages. If you find the first page interesting, chances are you’ll also be interested in the pages the author has chosen to link to.
Librarians and researchers have been doing this for a long time, in the print medium. It’s a valuable tool for identifying sources on your chosen topic.
What you do is use the bibliography provided at the end of an encyclopedia article, journal article or book that you’ve found particularly pertinent to your topic and follow the bibliographic references much as you would hyperlinks on the Web. Since you’re locating items which influenced the author of the original article and to which he or she referred, they’re likely to be “on point” to your topic. Then use the bibliography at the end of those cited articles to find even more items, and so on.
Consult the reference librarian for advice
Several times above, you’ve been advised to consult the reference librarian. Reference librarians can help save you a lot of time because they know their library’s collection very well—both the reference collection and the nonfiction collection—and can often tell you “off the top of their heads” whether or not the library has a particular item you’re looking for. They are also skilled searchers, both of the library’s catalog and of online resources such as CD-ROM, online databases and the internet. In addition, they’re trained in teaching others to use these resources and are glad to do so.
Learn about search syntax and professional search techniques
To be successful at any kind of online searching, you need to know something about how computer searching works. At this time, much of the burden is on the user to intelligently construct a search strategy, taking into account the peculiarities of the particular database and search software. The section on Skills for online searching will get you started.

The American Library Association recommends:

Online Resources for Parents and Children
America Links Up
America Links Up was a broad-based public awareness campaign to ensure that every child in America has a safe, educational and rewarding experience online. The site is no longer active and is being hosted here by GetNetWise for archival purposes.
Child Safety on the Information Superhighway
Larry Magid, a syndicated columnist for the Los Angeles Times, gives tips for becoming street smart on the Web. His “Guidelines for Parents” explains how to deal with everything from suggestive or misleading content to the danger of online-arranged meetings with strangers.
Especially for Young People and Their Parents
This page includes links to online safety rules and suggestions, designed-for-children search engines, all ALA great sites, and other great sites for parents and young people. Also includes links to privacy pages.
An online service of companies and non-profit groups concerned about child safety on the Internet. The Web site provides a comprehensive “Web-wide” resource with safety tips, ways to report online trouble, tech tools for families, great Web sites for kids and a glossary of Internet terms.
Great Web Sites for Kids
Links to Web sites for fun and learning. Recommended and organized by topic by children’s librarians. Sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the ALA.
Kids’ Safety (GetNetWise)
Learn about the risks kids face online, based on age levels or types of activities. Concerns about privacy are addressed as well. Quick tips for kids, teens, and families.
The Librarian’s Guide to Cyberspace for Parents & Kids
See The Librarians Guide to Great Sites for Kids below.
The Librarians Guide to Great Sites for Kids
Formerly titled The Librarian’s Guide to Cyberspace for Parents & Kids. Telephone: 800-545-2433. ext. 5044/5041 or e-mail for more information.
The Parents’ Guide to the Information Superhighway
Rules and tools for families online from The Children’s Partnership. Comprehensive look at the information superhighway and what parents should know to help their children use it safely and wisely.
Parents’ Guide to the Internet
From the U.S. Department of Education (archived information; 1997), this guide suggests how parents can help their children tap into the wonders of the Internet while safeguarding them from potential hazards.
Privacy (GetNetWise)
As the Internet has grown in complexity, many consumers feel they may be disclosing information about themselves and their online travels that they’d rather keep private. GetNetWise provides information about tools and techniques to better control how much personal information you share with online stores, Web sites, emailers, chatters and other people who may use your computer.
Privacy Resources for Librarians, Library Users, and Families
This resource is intended to help librarians and all library users understand the issue of privacy and confidentiality.
Safety Tips for Kids on the Internet from the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Site focuses on online safety and ways to report abuses.
A Safety Net for the Internet: A Parent’s Guide
What parents should know about the Internet from the New York Public Library.

Where information leads to Hope. © Dr.

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