Bits of Stone for May 27, 2012
Reading is the most important activity for those of us who write
Its important because without it we wouldn’t have a job and if we writers couldn’t read we would quickly run out of information about subjects on which we report. Therefore, it was no surprise that we were overly impressed with a recent column, “If you couldn’t read ...” by Bonnie Holmes in Between Friends, a publication of Friends of the Blount County Public Library.
Her well annotated points about what is most likely to happen to non-readers:
• You might be a juvenile delinquent. Researchers estimate that 35 percent of academically low-performing children became delinquent compared with 20 percent of academically high performing children.
• You would probably earn a very low salary. A study estimated the 17 to 18 percent of adults with “below basic” literacy earned less than $300 a week, whereas only 3 to 6 percent of adults with proficient” literacy skills earned less than $300 a week.
• You might be in prison. More than 60 percent of all prison inmates are functionally illiterate. Over 75 percent of all inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above fourth grade level.
• You might be receiving food stamps. Three out of four food stamp recipients perform on the lowest two literacy levels.
• You might be a high school dropout. Ninety percent of welfare recipients are high school dropouts.
• You might be in poorer health. Limited health literacy is associated with poor health. Persons with limited health literacy skills are more likely to skip important preventive measures. When compared to those with adequate skills, studies have shone that patients with limited health literacy skills enter the health care system when they are sicker.
• You were probably in the 37 percent of children who entered kindergarten without the skills needed for lifetime learning.
• You probably heard less than half the number of words spoken by your family per hour than in a professional family and you had no children’s books in your home.
• Two-thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of the fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare. The fourth grade is the watershed year.
Looks like the deck might be stacked against you young students and your parents. These facts above are discouraging but we have just given you the secret key: Learn to Read. It’s not that difficult, just work on it a day at a time. And we have good help programs in Blount County.
To help save you some looking:
Parents should help teach their children from the earliest stages in life. Learning together is an activity that brings parents and children together, giving both confidence.
If your child is not moving along well to reading by the fourth grade, ask the school principal to direct you to some additional help. Be supportive of your child’s efforts.
For those who drop out of public schools before earning a diploma, the program on the Everett High campus can help a student achieve an General Educational Development Diploma. More adults who dropped out are coming back at an earlier age as they see the need for the equivalency of a high school diploma. Some companies have programs to help in this field.
Persons interested in earning a GED should start as soon as possible. The price is going up and earning the GED will soon become more difficult. Call 982-8998 for details.
We have a wonderful library here, the finest non-metropolitan public library in Tennessee. It has an outstanding non-profit organization, Friends of the Blount County Public Library, which has a large membership of supporters and volunteer workers and sponsors events for the library. Dues are $12 a year, $10 for students and $17 for families. If you are interested in joining, send the check to Friends of the Blount County Public Library, 508 N. Cusick St., Maryville, TN 37804. Once or twice a year they have good sales of books on volumes that are being retired.
The Friends organization is sponsoring a 10th anniversary event, celebrating 10 years of sweet success. It will be held from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. Saturday, June 16, at the library with desserts, coffee and entertainment. Tickets are $10 in advance but may be picked up at the door, or if you wait until that night they are $15. That’s about the only way an organization can estimate the size crowd to prepare for in advance. You’ll enjoy the celebration and your membership.
Tidbits from many sources
• May 9 marked the 258th anniversary of political cartoons in newspapers. The first in the U.S., which Benjamin Franklin published in the Pennsylvania Gazette, was his infamous “Join or Die” graphic.
• One in every six people in the world today speaks Mandarin Chinese. While that language has the most native speakers, people for whom it is their first language. But English is the most commonly spoken language.
• National Geographic’s new “Answer Book” provides almost unlimited facts, many of which we likely will never use. Still it is interesting to know that the African baobab tree can store 25,000 gallons of water in its trunk and lower limbs; the first labor strike on record occurred 1160 B.C. when workers building the tomb of Ramses III went on strike for higher wages; some 8 million bolts of lightning strike the world every day, many with temperatures of 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit; half of all oxygen comes from photosynthesizing phytoplankton, one-celled plants on the oceans’ surface; 5,000 species of bacteria are contained in a single handful of soil; more than 80,000 genes are contained in human DNA.
• Robert Ballard, who first discovered the Titanic wreckage, says tourists visiting the site are destroying the remains of the ship’s hull. “They are loving the Titanic to death,” Ballard said. It is unnecessary destruction of the historic site. They are landing on it, crushing the deck, knocked off the crow’s nest, leaving all sorts of garbage, he said. One couple was even married in a submarine that landed on the deck of the Titanic!
• Evidence of the world’s oldest deep-sea fisherman and one of the earliest signs of advanced maritime skill has been uncovered in an island cave off the northern coast of Australia, Sue O’Connor of Australian National University found a 16,000-year-old fish hook carved from the base of a snail shell. She recovered other remains which dated back 42,000 years, Discovery magazine reports.
• The June edition of Reader’s Digest is a hoot! It is so filled with outrageous schemes, scams, blunders, dumb criminals, dangerous docs, crazy neighbors and lousy lawyers tales, so many unusual things, they added 40 pages.
• Kiplinger Letter predicts some 30 state budgets will be in the red next year and most legislators’ hands are tied because states can’t run a deficit budget. Demographics are partially to blame with 350,000 more children in public schools than in 2008, some 1.7 million more in public colleges and universities and 5.6 million more added to Medicaid rolls because of job losses and wage and benefit cuts. As needs arise, federal aid to states is declining. In 2011, a total of $150 billion in economic stimulus funds ended and $24 billion more will end by 2014.
• You may have missed this: The Center for Plain Language recently honored the U.S. Department of Education with Grand ClearMark Award for the clearest language and the Columbia (East Petersburg, Pa.) Bank’s Merchant Agreement with the overall WonderMark Award for the most confusing and complex language. The bank, which serves Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New York and New Jersey, is owned by Fulton Bank. It won the questionable honor with a merchant agreement that is seven pages long, single spaced, written in legalise using a type font nearly impossible to read. It raised so many questions the bank lost several customers who did not apply.
Dean Stone is editor of The Daily Times.