A global test of 300,000 year 4 students measured their reading proficiency and revealed that Australian year 4 students are well behind their peers in similarly developed, English speaking countries. There was some commentary about this in the press last week, but not as much as you might think. That commentary has attributed blame for low reading standards to the school ‘system’, State and Federal Governments, teacher training, teacher effort levels and teaching technique. None of the commentary that I have read or seen has mentioned parents. There seems to have been no mention at all of the importance of parents engaging in the education of their children.
On one level the omission of the responsibilities of families from the discussion of children’s education is unsurprising. The whole notion of family level responsibility for raising children and looking are aged parents grows smaller in Australia every year. Nobody wants to tell parents who’s kids can’t read to try a bit harder. Many of the parents of children who have substandard reading literacy are themselves ill-equipped to teach their kids to read. That is a genuine and large problem and it is up to the State to provide extra resources to help kids who struggle with reading and come from low literacy families.
But there are surely a lot of kids who struggle with reading because their parents, who can read perfectly well, are just too indolent and irresponsible to read to their kids and ask their kids to read to them. I don’t know why we don’t have a public education program on this. Government’s in Australia love to tell us what to do to be a model citizen. Why don’t we have a program to tell people how utterly essential is the role of parents in children’s literacy. Talk to your kids when they are babies, read to them from the earliest age, ask them to read to you when they go to school. Why don’t governments and the press hit away at that.