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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Reading is Fundamental

We all know the horror stories of middle and high school students reading on elementary grade levels.  And we are cognizant of the devastating impact that COVID-19 and remote teaching and learning had on our students. However, we as a community have yet to have a conversation to come up with strategies to deal with the literacy challenges of the adults in our neighborhoods.

During this decade our community is losing billions of dollars in federal funding due to the high rate of U.S. Census forms that were not returned in Wards 7 & 8.  Many of our neighbors simply could not read the forms.

Just as the Census forms were mailed to households, election ballots will be mailed for the June 4th primary.  And many of those ballots will not be returned — not because our neighbors are apathetic.  Many of our neighbors simply cannot read the ballots.

And it will be political business as usual with the candidates focusing on super voters and chronic non-voters being ignored and forgotten. And our political activists and leaders will make no organized effort to go into the households and read the ballots to those with literacy challenges.

In 2020 the Washington Literacy Center released a report on DC’s literacy divide.  Below is an infographic from the report with the stunning statistic of a 49.8% literacy rate among Wards 7 and 8 residents. Although that statistic is now stale and inaccurate due to the redistricting of the wards, still it paints a disturbing portrait of illiteracy throughout our east-of-the-river neighborhoods.

At some point we must deal with the issue of illiteracy in our community in a collective and strategic manner.

It is a fact that young children who are read to by their parents start formalized schooling with a head start. Parents who are victims of systemic miseducation cannot put their children to sleep with books they cannot read.

In DC we constantly have summits on every issue imaginable.  To my knowledge, there has been no east-of-the-river summit on literacy.  I propose that our community institutions, organizations, activists and leaders work with Washington Literacy Center (WLC) to organize such a summit.  Jimmie Williams is the WLC president and chief executive officer. Also, he is an east-of-the-river resident who I am sure will help organize such a sorely needed summit. Please contact the WLC and see how it can connect with your organization. More importantly, make every effort to support its work.  www.washlit.org/

Together we can achieve a more literate community. I am ready to get involved. Are you?

Long-time Ward 8 community activist Philip Pannell can be contacted at philippannell@comcast.net. Pannell is the Exbcutive Director of the Anacostia Coordinating Council. Help Make Wards 7 & 8 Great! Become a Member of the Anacostia Coordinating Council: Visit www.anacostiacc.org/join-us.html.


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