A Nation Of Nonreaders - page 2

by TheCommuter Asst. Admin

7,494 Views | 50 Comments

I first noticed this serious problem when I was 19 years old and working at a grocery store. One of my coworkers, a middle-aged mother of three who had been married for 15 years, asked for my assistance with reading and... Read More


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    Poor spelling is not always an example of illiteracy. I know plenty of well read people who for whatever reason have poor recall when it comes to spelling.
    The way children assimilate information in daily life is changing. When books first started being written people feared that our ability of memory would go away. The idea being that if everything is written down, you would no longer memorize or remember things.
    It seems to me that, with the advent of all this technology, the educational system is failing to keep up with the differences between then and now. ( on a personal note, no child left behind has been implemented very poorly.)
    I think we are in a transitional period. When Google can find an answer to virtually any question you may have, it becomes harder to find the applicability of school as I knew it. That's my two cents, rambling though it may be.
    gypsyd8 likes this.
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    Thanks for a great post/reminder. This stuff has serious implications for 1) Comprehension of material and 2) How knowledge is disseminated and interpreted. Communication is everything, particularly in regards to patient safety.

    Not to pick on nurses, but do you think the type/style of reading and writing required for the job is a hindrance? So many check boxes, abbreviations, etc. makes it hard to construct much less understand writing with any flourish. I think of my friends with jobs/majors in other fields and I feel like a dummy next to them - they are so well read and write beautifully. I sometimes go back and re-read stuff I wrote in high school and liberal arts college classes and think, "Darn, that was pretty good. Did I really write that?" Don't think I could do it today...the agony/anxiety I'm experiencing over writing in grad school is evidence of the slow and steady decay of these "soft" skills...

    Also, having to proofread the work of class mates is equally painful. We're all grad students, and yikes! Whole sentences/paragraphs that make. no. sense. It's really hard to give positive feedback to someone who has produced something that is essentially unreadable. The nicest way (that I've come up with so far) to give constructive criticism is to say "Always make sure you have someone proofread for you. It can be hard to catch your own mistakes."
    teeniebert likes this.
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    Just to play devil's advocate:

    It's so sad that the US standards in so many vital areas are dropping so fast.
    I have to wonder how much of that stuff is really "vital" anymore. Latin, short hand, and Morse Code used to be all the rage. Now they're "dead" languages. The day may come where cursive writing goes the way of the DoDo and why shouldn't it? The need for cursive was to 1) be faster and 2) prevent ink dripping all over from lifting the quill off the page. The age of ball point pens removed half that need, and word processors removed the other. Printing will do just fine.

    Take it a little further and the age of computers, phones, etc. may remove the need for writing (ie. actual physical "writing") altogether, given enough time. There's not necessarily anything wrong with that, as long as humans are able to communicate effectively by pushing buttons and being able to interpret the output. *That is where the problem lies - the interpretation part. Standardization is a key component to any successful language - people have to agree on what things mean. Not being able to interpret the output, or create output that others can interpret is where we get into trouble. This is what we need to keep in mind when working with patients and colleagues: can they understand the communication, whether written, verbal, or physical demonstration.
  4. 0
    Quote from TheCommuter
    It makes me wonder how these people skirted through college-level English courses and managed to receive passing grades.
    Some are given mercy passes. Others have a friend who needs them to stay in school to give said friend a ride to school (this may or may not be based on personal experience :P). The question of standards does come to mind as well.

    That said, I used to work with an older nurse who was clearly dyslexic. In her day she was simply labeled a "slow learner" and no one really expected much from her. What got her through was pure determination and hard work. She read as much as she could to practice, worked twice as hard as everyone else to complete her education (which those around her told her she was simply incapable of doing) and went on to have an almost 50 year career. She never did read or write well but did well enough.

    I was always impressed at her work ethic and her willingness to do what it took to become a nurse, despite the difficulties. Many people in the same situation would have quit and accepted that they were simply too "stupid" to continue. Heck how many people quit with half the obstacles?
  5. 1
    One word- De-evolution.
    rubato likes this.
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    Where I work, they tried for a while to let the aides write their own notes in the chart. It made sense, taken at face value. The aides could chart stuff within their scope: behavior observations, food intake, unusual urine/stool output, things like that.

    It only lasted a few months.

    Tons of incoherent notes. Bizarre sentence structure. Aides who would write two page narrative notes just to describe why Mrs Jones didn't get her shower that shift. And, I swear to God, I saw notes where "cause" was written "cuz", "you" as "u" and other various cell phone text-speaks. It was a hot mess.


    I'm convinced that texting is ruining our ability to write with any competence. Writing properly is a "use it or lose it" skill. And many Americans seem to be "losing it" fast.
    rubato likes this.
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    I totally agree that cursive handwriting has outlived it purpose. It's just an archaic relic. For clarity purposes, we should train kids to have their writing match typed words as much as possible. Who cares if it's not as pretty or individualistic? Clarity and uniformity is the point of writing.
    anotherone and alotusforyou like this.
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    There is little doubt that both literacy and perhaps more importantly, numeracy, have declined significantly in the US over the past decades. While it is convenient to identfy the school system as the culprit, in my opinion, poor parenting is much more to blame. Both my wife and I had parents who read, both of us are avid readers and so perhaps not surprisingly, both our [now grown] children are also fond of reading.

    Having a high degree of literacy may not seem related to mathematics, but the ability to understand and reason is enhanced dramatically through literature and I maintain helps to promote a facility with numbers (i. e., numeracy). Of course, reading also builds vocabulary and allows a deeper understanding of grammar and syntax, all of which helps to increase fluency and competence in writing.

    Frankly, it is a shame that neither schools nor parents seem to hold reading in very high regard. When I went to high school, we were required to read a wide variety of works ranging from "classic" English writing such as Chaucer, Shakespeare and Marlowe, to more modern works from Hardy, Lawrence, Twain, Dickens, Melville, London, Crane and Hemingway. I can still recite the first few lines of the Canterbury Tales (we had to memorize the first paragraph - in Middle English no less!) and much of Portia's "Quality of Mercy" soliloquy from The Merchant of Venice. I bring this up, not to brag about my education - frankly, it pales in comparison to that of earlier generations - but simply to illustrate how far down we seem to have slid when it comes to appreciating English literature. Poor writing skills really should not be much of a surprise.
    Szasz_is_Right, llg, and Altra like this.
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    Quote from Cro-Magnon
    Poor spelling is not always an example of illiteracy. I know plenty of well read people who for whatever reason have poor recall when it comes to spelling. . . .
    Never trust a man who can only spell a word one way
    S. L. Clemons
    anotherone likes this.
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    Readers Digest had an article years ago about a college graduate who admitted he could NOT read. He was adept at getting other people to do things for him. Its a shame a college educated? man should have to admit something like that.

    If we consider the number of people who get out of school without being able to proficiently read, which they should be able to do at least by the fifth grade, why do we wonder that taxpayers do not want to keep increasing school taxes when schools cannot seem to accomplish even this minimal task.
    Szasz_is_Right likes this.


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