The National Literacy Trust reported that:
70% of pupils permanently excluded from school have difficulties in basic literacy skills. 25% of young offenders are said to have reading skills below those of the average seven-year-old. 60% of the prison population is said to have difficulties in basic literacy skills. (2008a, p.6).
Why may this be the case?
Clearly, prevention of literacy failure is essential if the statistics detailed above are going to be reduced and more young people are equipped with the skills to make better life choices. A very useful starting point for those in educational settings is the Literacy and Social Inclusion Handbook which supports the following activity.
The Literacy and Social Inclusion Handbook, which emerged from research conducted by the National Literacy Trust, offers a ten point checklist that may help schools provide proactive framework of support for potentially vulnerable children. Look through this checklist and consider what your school currently already does to meet each point, what could be considered for future development and what would be needed for this to be implemented.
The texts referred to in the two activities make for very sombre reading and remind us of the responsibility teachers have when teaching the functional skills of reading and writing; the National Literacy and Numeracy Framework (LNF) supports teachers in meeting this responsibility.
Illiteracy has such a profound negative effect on the individual, society and the economic well-being of Wales that it cannot be allowed to happen.
Currently, there are many government-driven initiatives which are designed to raise standards at every educational level. Clearly, these will take time to develop and become embedded before judgements can be made about effectiveness. The most current review of provision is available here.
However, there is no doubt that every teacher can play a part in making a difference whether it is in nursery or at the highest level of public examinations. We can all be effective teachers of literacy and give young people the skills needed to make successful choices.
Wales has a rich literary heritage and its future literary heritage lies in the corners of every educational setting. It is both a privilege and a responsibility to be a teacher of literacy and we hope that very often, like this poem, it is a celebration.
Notes on the art of poetry
By Dylan Thomas
I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on
in the world between the covers of books,
such sandstorms and ice-blasts of words,
such staggering peace, such enormous laughter,
such and so many blinding bright lights
splashing all over the pages
in a million bits and pieces
all of which were words, words, words
and each of which were alive forever
in its own delight and glory
and oddity and light.