United States Needs Assessment in Reading
On June 13, 2009, the first United States Declaration for the Right to Literacy Convention convened at the National Community Literacy Conference in Buffalo, New York. At this conference, delegates from the United States and around the world concluded that in order to ensure prosperity for the nation and self-determination for the individual, changes at the national, regional, and local level must take place. Literacy leaders, using the model of the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, convened from across the nation. The need was clear; tens of millions of adults and children do not have the skills needed to succeed in life. Literacy is the number one tool to change that plight. The right to literacy must be a national priority. This declaration is similar to the guiding principles of Coronation Institute and supports the five pillars of literacy: Building the Community; strengthening the family; ensuring self-determination; improving the workforce; transforming the literacy system to improve poverty.
NCLB established Reading First as a literacy policy and national program of excellence to all primary-aged children in America (Block & Israel, 2005). The difference between higher socio-economic families when compared to lower socio-economic families by age 4 is significant. Children living in impoverished areas are exposed to only 13 million words as compared to 45 million words for children living in higher socio-economic areas. The research available on parental involvement demonstrates that parents more involved with literacy growth during the preschool years contribute to reading readiness in direct ways.
In 1999, at the 33rd International Literacy Day, Pope John Paul II further explains the critical nature of one’s ability to access scripture at all levels. He continues to support the fight against illiteracy by asking that Catholic schools disseminate the Christian message clearly and vigorously by placing knowledge in the horizon of faith. As a reading teacher in Catholic schools, an underlying goal is to teach children to read in order to fight against illiteracy in future generations and to put an end to poverty.
Similarly, to help reading teachers understand the qualities necessary to be exemplary we can turn to reading research. In Excellent Reading Teachers: A Position Statement of the International Reading Association (2000), guidelines has been outlined. The challenge of Catholic school reading teachers is the ability to meet the standards outlined by reading associations, such as the International Reading Association (IRA) while at the same time integrating emphasis on spiritual development. To meet this challenge, the emphasis in this program is placed on establishing behavioral characteristics of exemplary reading teachers that model virtues of excellence in reading and defined by Catholic doctrine.