Epidemic youth illiteracy in U.S. ‘a national security threat’

Aug 30, 2015 by

Michael F. Haverluck –

Researchers warn that America is in the midst of a reading crisis, with the national illiteracy rate reaching epidemic proportions, according to the latest studies.

The problem has become so rife that officials in the United States military have declared American youths’ proliferating illiteracy rate as a threat to America’s national security, according to a Christianity Today (CT) report.

“America’s reading crisis has been recognized by our nation’s military leaders as a national security threat, and leaders on both the Left and the Right have declared educational inequity to be ‘the civil rights issue of our time,” informed CT’s Hermeneutics guest writer Sara Kay Mooney, who serves as a middle school teacher librarian in North Carolina and sees the problem spilling into children’s faith. “But the alarmingly high rates of illiteracy in our country also hold troubling implications for us as Christians.”

With a whopping two-thirds of 8th graders (13-to 14-year-olds) in the U.S. not scoring proficient on reading tests in 2013, Mooney is concerned that the problem stems from kids failing to read years earlier in elementary school.

“Those who fail to read on grade level by third grade continue to lag behind in middle school and high school, and they’re less likely to graduate or make it to college,” Mooney pointed out, noting that children coming from low income homes have higher rates of illiteracy and receive more sub-par education. “Fourth graders living in low-income communities are less than half as likely to be able to read at grade-level than students from wealthier homes.”

She says that the illiteracy problem is worst with youth living at poverty levels.

“One in three children growing up in poverty won’t graduate, and only 9 percent earn a four-year degree by 25,” the educator reported.

Illiteracy adversely affecting faith

Mooney argues that the illiteracy epidemic with American youth is detrimental not only to their academics, but to their Christian faith, as well — which is rooted in the Word of God.

“Reading and writing are deeply woven into the fabric of our faith,” the school librarian explained. “The [T]ruths underpinning our faith, the foundation of what we believe, come from a [B]ook that spans thousands of pages.”

She says it’s extremely difficult for children to truly know God if they can’t read His love letter written expressly to them.

“Scripture is brimming with commands related to reading and writing,” Mooney continued. “What does it mean to worship and follow a God who is called Logos — The Word — when you yourself can’t read?”

The middle school teacher concedes that the spoken Word is still at work today, but at the same time reminds Christians that the information age — which allows the world to communicate remotely from anywhere via the Internet and other written modes — demands an understanding of God’s Word through both reading and writing it.

“Certainly, you can know the Gospel even if you don’t read,” the educator acknowledged. “Spoken evangelism is a powerful force, and people are coming to faith in remote areas where they don’t even have a Bible in their native language. But in 21st-century America, where both our culture and our church relies on this written [W]ord so heavily, being unable to read means missing out on a lot.”

Putting faith into action

Mooney urges Christian communities to get involved in their local public schools by volunteering to tutor, by hosting classes for students at their churches, and by organizing book drives. This advice is corroborated by a Barna survey published last year, which divulged that “95 percent of pastors believe that Christians should get more involved in public schools.”

The Christian literacy advocate is confident that if such a high percentage of parents and churches (95 percent) got together to make a difference in public school children’s lives, major changes would begin to take place.

“If that many churches began actively combating the illiteracy epidemic, I am confident we would begin to see that literacy gap close,” Mooney expressed assuredly.

She emphasized the critical need for Christians from every walk of life to make it a priority to ensure that this youth generation has the tool of literacy at its side — to make them viable academically, financially, and ultimately, spiritually.

“Reading Scripture has the power to transform lives,” Mooney concluded. “My prayer is that the [C]hurch will play a key role in working to ensure that each one of our neighbors — no matter their socioeconomic background — has the ability to do just that.”

Source: Epidemic youth illiteracy in U.S. ‘a national security threat’

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