A staggering fifty percent of American adults are not able to read at an eighth-grade level. Since we are living in the Age of Information, the inability to read can present a huge disadvantage for individuals to meet standard occupational and societal demands.
It can also lead to social issues that have plagued countries for years, such as unemployment, poverty, and crime. However, one sure way to prevent illiteracy is to introduce literature to children at early stages of development. A variety of literature is not only the key to the success for the youth; it also influences their knowledge of culture, values, social norms that will shape their perceptions of reality and establishment of emotional intelligence.
Literature will also stimulate cognitive development and expand the children’s imagination with pleasurable experiences that allow them to escape into a world of excitement and adventure. Through these experiences they learn about a variety of cultures that they are able to compare and contrast the similarities and differences from their own. Two books that provide such experiences are Nory Ryan’s Song by Patricia Reilly Giff and Patricia Polacco’s The Butterfly. In both of these books the stories take place outside of the United States and convey a tell of two families who are faced with adversity and how they overcome them. Literature can prove to be a language model that exposes the children to correct vocabulary usage and sentence structures. By reading the assortment of stories that literature has to offer children will also be able to apply their comprehension strategies as it relates to the circumstance. Children will also develop early reading habits that may evolve into favorable attitudes towards books and enable them to blossom into confident writers and speakers who strive towards their goals and live up to their potential (Covington, 2017) (Anderson, 2010).
Curtis “Wall Street” Carroll, and many alike, would be an ideal example of how a life could change drastically through the art of literature. Carroll was a 17 year old delinquent who was in and out of the juvenile system before he was sentenced to 54 years to life for attempted robbery and murder. He was raised in an environment where drug addiction, crime, and homeless shelters was a way of life.
Consequently, Carroll’s outlook and attitude towards his culture and community was disheartening. He’d lost faith in a government that leads the world in global economic power and yet his mother frequently had to donate blood or stand in line at a soup kitchen in order for her kids to eat. Fortunately, for Carroll, at the age of twenty he conquered his most challenging quest by picking up a book and learning to read. Today he is a successful market investor who co-founded the Financial Empowerment Emotional Literacy Program that teaches financial decisions and guidance of how to separate the two. While it’s possible to overstate the correlation between illiteracy and crime it’s evident that among those who struggle to read many may require assistance from the state, are prone to health conditions, and are more likely to be unemployed. Although supporting children who find difficulty in reading comprehension can be expensive; the benefits of early intervention far out-weigh the alternatives of delaying or neglecting the educational needs of the children (Solomon, 2015). Introducing literature to children early will not only minimize hardships in the future, children will also acquire skills that will allow them to recognize and understand emotions that will aid them in making decisions and remaining optimistic when faced with distress or sorrow. Having emotional intelligence can also be associated with academic achievement and the key to a balanced life.
Children who are exposed to literature learn to empathize and communicate with others; traits that are essential in building personal relationships and the ability to solve problems. Children who lack the capacity to negotiate and cooperate may be prone to behavior issues that will affect their social and academic development. Emotional intelligence and what it means to have that quality is not clearly apprehended by all. However, we all could agree that emotions play a vital role in how we interact with people, and individuals with high emotional intelligence are living a more fulfilled life (Panneton, 2015) (Anderson, 2010). The benefits of children’s literature and the impact it can have on someone’s life is unmeasurable; benefits that range from social, academic and literacy success. Social development instills values and beliefs that reflect our cultural norms.
Children’s literature not only construct our own meaning of life, but teaches conflict resolutions and how to apply in our own lives. The importance of literacy can’t be expressed enough. Having the ability to read and write will not only afford people employment and educational opportunities to lead a productive life but prove to be critical for social and economic development (Anderson, 2010).