STAND with Kelly and Niki Tshibaka

Addressing the Literacy Epidemic

May 08, 2024 Kelly Tshibaka and Niki Tshibaka
Addressing the Literacy Epidemic
STAND with Kelly and Niki Tshibaka
More Info
STAND with Kelly and Niki Tshibaka
Addressing the Literacy Epidemic
May 08, 2024
Kelly Tshibaka and Niki Tshibaka

Unlock the power of words and the pressing need for literacy as I, Kelly Chewbacca, alongside my co-host Josiah Chewbacca, sit down with the visionary Barbara Richter from DIYbookus. We dissect the alarming literacy crisis sweeping across America, with a spotlight on Alaska's struggling rates. This episode is not merely a conversation, but a rallying cry for action. We confront how low literacy levels cripple job prospects, societal engagement, and the essence of freedom itself. The stakes are high, and our talk with Barbara Richter reveals the harrowing reality that a significant portion of the population is being left behind, unable to read, stifled in their pursuit of the American dream.

Feel the urgency as we explore early childhood education's vital role in shaping a literate society. Josiah Chewbacca, a firsthand witness to the educational system's trials, joins me in emphasizing the critical window before third grade, where intervention is key. We share innovative strategies and argue for the reallocation of education funds toward impactful early intervention tools and resources. Our discussion is a call to arms for more than just awareness—it's a blueprint for change, advocating for an educational revolution that prioritizes actual literacy results over bureaucracy. Together, we can rewrite the narrative on literacy in America—and it starts with the wisdom shared in this thought-provoking episode.

Subscribe to never miss an episode of STAND:
YouTube
Apple Podcasts
Spotify

STAND's website: • StandShow.org
Follow Kelly Tshibaka on
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KellyForAlaska
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KellyForAlaska
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kellyforalaska/

Show Notes Transcript

Unlock the power of words and the pressing need for literacy as I, Kelly Chewbacca, alongside my co-host Josiah Chewbacca, sit down with the visionary Barbara Richter from DIYbookus. We dissect the alarming literacy crisis sweeping across America, with a spotlight on Alaska's struggling rates. This episode is not merely a conversation, but a rallying cry for action. We confront how low literacy levels cripple job prospects, societal engagement, and the essence of freedom itself. The stakes are high, and our talk with Barbara Richter reveals the harrowing reality that a significant portion of the population is being left behind, unable to read, stifled in their pursuit of the American dream.

Feel the urgency as we explore early childhood education's vital role in shaping a literate society. Josiah Chewbacca, a firsthand witness to the educational system's trials, joins me in emphasizing the critical window before third grade, where intervention is key. We share innovative strategies and argue for the reallocation of education funds toward impactful early intervention tools and resources. Our discussion is a call to arms for more than just awareness—it's a blueprint for change, advocating for an educational revolution that prioritizes actual literacy results over bureaucracy. Together, we can rewrite the narrative on literacy in America—and it starts with the wisdom shared in this thought-provoking episode.

Subscribe to never miss an episode of STAND:
YouTube
Apple Podcasts
Spotify

STAND's website: • StandShow.org
Follow Kelly Tshibaka on
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KellyForAlaska
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KellyForAlaska
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kellyforalaska/

Speaker 1:

Welcome back to Stand with Kelly and Nikki Chewbacca. I'm Kelly Chewbacca, and today my co-host is Josiah Chewbacca. We just finished an awesome interview with Barbara Richter, who is the founder of DIYbookus, talking about all things freedom of speech, the importance of writing and literacy rates in America. Josiah, you are one of our affected youth. You're still in the public school system in America, affected by literacy rates in America and here in Alaska, our literacy rate across the state is well below 30%. I'm not sure what the exact number is. I just know it's been dropping significantly in these last several years In some parts of our state.

Speaker 1:

I think our literacy rate is at 10% in some of our communities, and so this is something that directly affects us, and one of the questions we were talking about is not only how do you get people to write when they can't even read, and, as you know, literacy affects things like your ability to get a job, your ability to function in society, but also affects things like freedom. There's high literacy rates correlated to things like imprisonment and things like economic freedom, not only in the United States, but across the world. I wanted to just get a sense from you. What do you see, having been in school. I mean, we're even graduating kids, not just in Alaska but across America, who are not literate, who don't have I'm not talking about sixth grade literacy, I'm talking about even less than that. So do not have functional literacy for America, independence for America, being able to function, being able to reach their full potential. What are some of your reflections, as somebody who's currently in the school system, on literacy rates for students in America?

Speaker 2:

The absolute most important thing is early reading and early learning, particularly before third grade.

Speaker 2:

So hearing about this mass illiteracy epidemic spreading through Alaska is extremely concerning to me, because I just learned that 60% of our students in at least Anchorage in kindergarten through third grade are well below not just below, but well below the average the national average, not necessarily even proficiency, but the national average for reading literacy. Okay, but once we get beyond third grade our students start to catch up. So our fourth through 12th graders aren't as far behind. Most of them are along the national average of reading rates, but we still produce mass illiteracy throughout our states, which tells me that even though our fourth through 12th graders are in fact at the national average standard for their reading, so many of them have been so negatively impacted in their early education and their early reading development that it continues to produce mass literacy into adulthood. So targeting that kindergarten through third grade time anyone below eight years old and seriously focusing on reading, literacy, proficiency and even excellency in that time period is absolutely crucial to having a literate society.

Speaker 1:

I think that's a really great point. One of the things that I've been focusing on is early intervention tools making sure that we have the tools needed. We can't always count on parents or a stable home environment to really be pushing reading or excited about reading, being able to run to the library or get resources for reading, and so we really need to be able to equip our schools to have early intervention resources that work, that give good data, that give good support to the teachers, to the students and then to whoever is taking care of the kids back at home in order to push early intervention, so that they can target, they can see what's the gap, what's the need, and then how do we target it with resources to make sure that the kids have what they need in order to close that gap. And I think you're right that targeting it between pre-K and third grade is really the area that we need to focus on, and I really believe this has been a debate across America. What about funding for schools, funding for education? That funding does not need to go into more administration, more overhead, more people at the top. It does not need to go into more buildings and more sports yards. It needs to go into these intervention programs. It needs to go into teachers who are performing, who we actually produce metrics so that we're actually putting money towards results, because continuing to just fund a system and fund a organization metric, if you will that actually is just producing illiteracy doesn't work.

Speaker 1:

As we know, government will always grow.

Speaker 1:

The education system is part of government. Government will always grow, it will always consume resources and unless its feet are held to the fire, it will not produce results. And we really need to focus on this, on producing literacy as a result, producing, I would say, a love for reading as a result, so that our kids actually have the skills and the strength that they need in order to contribute to that marketplace of ideas, reach their full potential, be functioning in society, be equipped for the workplace so that we can have a strong America and a prosperous America in the future. Otherwise, we will produce, class after class after class and then, ultimately, a generation of non-readers. And how will those generations you know we talk about America's greatest generation how will those generations of illiterate Americans even compete against China and Russia and these countries that obviously are adversarial to us and undermining us every chance they get, let alone countries that are right next door to us, like Mexico, that are competing with us in trade right now and competing with us even at the border yeah, absolutely so I.

Speaker 2:

One of the things I was going to bring up is, you said, instilling a love of reading in children. Getting not everyone has the opportunity to run to the library, and the thought that that put into my mind is you know, the library here in Anchorage isn't safe.

Speaker 1:

If.

Speaker 2:

I were a father.

Speaker 1:

I would never let my child go to that library.

Speaker 2:

We don't go to the library. We don't go to the library. It's become a homeless.

Speaker 1:

It's become a place filled with illiterate people.

Speaker 2:

And so as we, continue to produce a society of illiterate Americans. This next generation of illiterate Americans is going to feed into that vicious cycle of making an unsafe, unproductive society in which reading is not accessible to the majority of people, furthering the problem even more so. Something to note there this is a vicious cycle. Illiteracy is not like literacy. Literacy does not self reproduce. It doesn't replicate.

Speaker 1:

That's a great point. Literacy does not just happen. No.

Speaker 2:

Illiteracy does in fact.

Speaker 1:

It's contagious, it's cancerous, it replicates on its own.

Speaker 2:

The other thing that I would touch on is talking about education funding and how throwing money at the problem doesn't necessarily fix it. There's a very classic American saying If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and I would kind of reverse that saying and apply it to funding and education If it's still broken, don't act like it's fixed. You can throw money at a system that's working. If a system is working and in well order and producing results and then you throw money at it, you're going to see an exponential explosion of production and success and excellence in your students in that system. If the system is broken and you throw money at it, you're just throwing your money out the window. So while I absolutely support increases in education funding, it needs to come into a fixed system that is already producing results with the resources that it has.

Speaker 1:

That's a really great point. It's a basic investment principle. You don't throw bad money after bad money. If your investment isn't producing results, you don't say, well, maybe if I up my investment, this one will do better. You end up changing your investment manager or reallocate your portfolio, and that's fundamentally what needs to happen. As someone who has spent her career as a government watchdog, you actually can make changes in government without changing the money. You change the system, you change the process, you change the people, you change how funds are currently allocated in order to drive mission and results. Before you say, okay, now we're going to put more money into this in order to pump up the results, but right now we have to ask what are we funding? Because what we're funding, fundamentally, is illiteracy.

Speaker 2:

Exactly. If you're funding a system that is not producing results you want to see, why would you even put money in that? Why are you choosing to produce results that you then say you don't want to see?

Speaker 1:

That's right. Something I think is encouraging is we do have models across the country. Just like Barbara was saying, there are schools that have actually succeeded and done this well, not only in fixing the pre-K to third grade intervention and literacy challenge, but fixing it pre-K to 12th, and we have great models of school systems. They're not just in private schools and, as a side note, we've had not so great experiences in private school and we've had some really great experiences in public school. So whether it's public school or charter school or homeschool or private school because we've done them all in our family there are great school systems that can be modeled across the country. For whoever is listening to this because this show is broadcast nationally that we can model our school systems after and we can say you know, we don't have to create this from scratch, we can look at who's done it before.

Speaker 1:

There are plenty of people who've walked this path ahead of us and figured this out. Reading didn't start in this century. Reading has been going on for a while and people have figured out the tools for literacy a while ago and we can model after what they've done and then improve on it for our culture, our context and our communities and figure out what works best for us, but we don't have to reinvent the wheel in order to make this thing work. So I would recommend that we look at these best practices and implement what works, instead of trying to figure out something from scratch or, as you say, continue to invest in systems that aren't working.

Speaker 2:

Right, and I think it's especially crucial with where we see America at today. One of the things that they try to teach us so often in college courses, especially anything pertaining to reading or writing or English in college courses is media literacy, critical thinking, analyzing a source, validating its credibility, being able to spot bias, being able to spot fake news. And if you can't even read, how can you think through truth, how can you reason? Is this person lying to me? Is this a valid? How can you rationalize or apply logic to any argument? How can you lead a world nation, a superpower, how can you influence, impact or take a stand on anything in america if you cannot even read and understand basic ideas? And what kind of a government that is supposed to be for its people would do such a disservice to its citizens as to cripple them.

Speaker 1:

But yeah, by perpetuating illiteracy. It really leaves us open to indoctrination and disinformation and someone telling you what to think instead of how to think, which really disempowers the people. It's a great point. Let's pick that up. On the other side of this break, you're listening to Stand with Kelly Nikki Chewbacca, and today my host is Josiah Chewbacca. I'd love for you to hit subscribe at standshoworg. You can find all of our podcasts and all of our previous episodes. Thanks for being a standout. We'll see you in a minute. Stand by.