Now, before you stop reading because you think this post is going to be equally discouraging, there are also bright spots in our educational and literacy landscape, and these are the things that have me studying to be a teacher librarian. I know that good teachers can make a difference in students' lives. Students can be taught how to persist and learn, regardless of how much natural talent they have, or how high their IQ is. Carol Dweck's research into the 'growth mindset' alone gives me hope that we are living in good educational times. Despite all the news stories that paint public education as rapidly deteriorating, all is not bad.
So back to the original New Yorker article that I put off reading. When I started the article I realized I was looking for the silver bullet. I want the question of literacy to be an easier one to solve. Not because I am lazy or not willing to work for it, but because literacy is so vital to everything. Literacy is necessary for understanding things as simple and necessary as our health and our money. The wealth gap keeps growing and will continue to grow as long as those on the bottom don't even have a chance to work their way to the top. Every single student deserves the right literacy education that works for them, so that every last one of them has the same shot at college and/or a career they can love. So, I put off reading the article out of fear that it would say more discouraging things that I just was not ready for.
There is something to be said about going into an article waiting to be disappointed. What Maria Konnikova had to say was anything but demoralizing. She does not have a quick solution either, but that is okay, because what she has to say fits perfectly with what librarians and library students all over are doing and learning about. Konnikova writes about the research Fumiko Hoeft is doing on how children learn to read. Hoeft has found that regardless of what skills or genetic predispositions students have when they enter Kindergarten, they can better learn the literacy skills they need when they are taught executive functioning and self-regulation.
What Hoeft’s studies demonstrate is that no matter a kid’s starting point in kindergarten, reading development also depends to a great extent on the next three years.