Friday, December 18, 2009


I am literate and I will land one on your schnoz if you say otherwise. In my internet world, I am surrounded by very literate people. I confess, it has made me try harder with my writing, especially with sentence construction which I frequently judge as poor. But I have improved.

My brothers and sister are literate, my parents were literate, my grandparents were literate. I had never met some who could not write a proper sentence. I can't remember anyone at school who wasn't literate. It is clear to me that even at the age of two and a half, Little Jo will be literate.

So I find it very disturbing that another of my nieces and my nephew are not what I would call particularly literate. They are my very literate Tradie Brother's children. The oldest, my nephew is not really bad and can express himself with the written, but his spelling and grammar are atrocious. A sentence starting with a capital letter and ending with a full stop? Nope. Not his style. His younger sister is the pick of the three. She seems to have it together. She is now in the tertiary education system and so needs to be able to write properly. Bit of chicken and egg there perhaps. The youngest, the teenage niece, I would judge as semi illiterate and I don't know why? She seems unable to even vaguely write properly. I don't see any signs of her being dyslexic.

Even when talking, the words and thoughts just spill out. Consequently I often have no idea what she is talking about. But the quantity of words are certainly there. She talks and talks.

I don't think her mother's side of the family are high in the literacy stakes. Could this be the reason? Genes? Upbringing? Poor schools? Combination of all? Is it as simple as being read to when you are very young?

Thoughts on why illiteracy happens welcome. I could search on the net, but I would like something a bit more personal.


  1. Todays whole langauge approach has a great deal to be accountable for.

    Once upon a time a sentence such as "Tha blak kat ran ova the hot tin rof." Would have red lines through it and IF the teacher had time would be re-written to "The black cat ran over the hot tin roof"
    Now as LONG as the sentence is readble - even if incorrect - it is allowed to remain with no red strikes (because this may affect their self-esteem)
    Once upon a time - parents read a bedtime story, now days, often many houses DO NOT contain books, all literacy is computer based, with the likes of U and g2g and garbage like that.
    I agree with 100% - maths is another problem that seems to be ignored also.

  2. My sister's a primary school teacher and she doesn't do the "can't correct work as it may affect their self esteem thing". Sounds odd to me.

    I think a lot of it stems from before school. If you're not read to and given the basic foundations as a young 'un, you're disadvantaged.

    I've met a few people who were completely illiterate, they couldn't read or write. The majority of these people came from severely broken homes, didn't really attend school then never bothered to learn.

  3. Fen - seriously that statement affecting the self-estemm is 100% correct!
    Sorry about the cached version - but it makes life easier by highlighting the text - read this (from one of the more esteemed schools in the state of victoria),+self-esteem&cd=7&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=au

    Read it and tell me what you think?

  4. It could be some type of learning disability. There are ones besides Dyslexia.

    I've been wondering some of the same things about illiteracy as well. Is it a learning disability? Bad teaching? Laziness?

    Maybe it's different for everyone.

    My grandmother dropped out of school early...maybe third grade. Her spelling and grammar were fairly atrocious. But her letters were still beautiful. She still managed to get her thoughts on paper.

  5. Just like some people drive well and others know maths well - it is a something learned, some people are better (or natural) learners, others have to work harder. I think it is partly laziness, partly bad teaching AND also the fact that they ARE NOT corrected and therefore get away with it. Many universities will tell you that kids coming from High School into University - can't wrtie nor spell and almost have to start learning those basic skills from the beginning.
    Even resumes have been presented to me with spelling mistakes in them (emailed copies) now that is PURE laziness - nothing more, nothing less.

  6. Hate to rain on your parade here.... but have you checked the spelling of the title of this post??

  7. LOL - I saw that and commented and then deleted the post ;)

    I didn;t want to be the bearer of bad news!

    Post #2 was me

    Literacy is spelt with one 'T'

    Unless it was done on purpose

    (That was my comment)

  8. It ain't so (most of the time) that link you gave me is one example (the Montessori philosophy) of teaching. This philosophy is not employed in most state schools as far as I am aware, certainly most of the teachers I know do not use this method. I understand your point, however it's not a widespread teaching method.

    My father marked the GAT tests this year and some other one that the kids did and he was horrified at the low levels of literacy. His opinion is that teachers these days have so many other things to teach on the curriculum that time for basic reading, writing and arithmetic has been slashed. I'd tend to agree with him, after having worked in schools for nearly 10 years.

    But I don't think it's one area that's the problem, as you said. It's the lack of parental teaching, a lack of time for parents to spend time teaching kids the basics, as well as education and natural ability. Whilst I was an A grade English student I was a crap Maths student, simply because of my own natural ability.

  9. I gave you one example - but I am have many times - correct the teachers corrections - because I won't allow poor spelling etc to remain in place.
    My daughter is not brilliant at english and yet is good at maths - The spoken word is fine, handwriting terrible and reading (even though she DOES read) is slow - but that is what she does. My son appears at this stage to be good at both maths AND english -but being a boy is lazy. and he;s only 12 - so time will tell in that department.
    My husband is a tradie - my daughter's handwriting is almost identical (saw it last night actually) so maybe like father like daughter.
    Children are not taught to read, from when they can comprehend a story - instead they are sat in front of a computer, both at home and school. Computers have their place, but I think the written word on paper has more of a place.

  10. re the header - I thought it was wordplay, as in the garbage that GenX garbles these days and I have one word for it all: bloody texting

    Reading The Age yesterday and their chart of schools VCE results.
    For all their huge fees*, MLC only got 50% of their students over the cutoff point for excellence.

    **Friend has just written $20,000 cheque for next year and it's only Year 7 level fees.

  11. Seriously, there is little or no correction in regards to spelling, grammar, etc, these days, with this "in case we encourage poor self esteem" crap.
    There was an article last year in Qld saying red ink shouldn't be used in case poor widdle Johnny got the wobbles with his home work corrected.
    It's the same with school sports - no one gets a 1st,2nd, or 3rd place ribbon these days, it's a ribbon reading "Competitor" just to give everyone a warm inner glow for having galumphed around the school oval into 51st place ahead of the fatty-boom-bah PE teacher who can't spell her own surname.

  12. Seriously, there is little or no correction in regards to spelling, grammar, etc, these days, with this "in case we encourage poor self esteem" crap.
    There was an article last year in Qld saying red ink shouldn't be used in case poor widdle Johnny got the wobbles with his home work corrected.
    It's the same with school sports - no one gets a 1st,2nd, or 3rd place ribbon these days, it's a ribbon reading "Competitor" just to give everyone a warm inner glow for having galumphed around the school oval into 51st place ahead of the fatty-boom-bah PE teacher who can't spell her own surname.

  13. Lots of reading, lots of writing and lots of puzzles..word puzzles are my excuse for good literacy. I surround my kids with the things they are interested in and want to read..and it seems to have worked. It is reflected in their reports, Yayy them.

  14. It always pleases me to get new readers who don't know I would do such a thing as write a post about literacy and misspell litteracy. I do misspell at times I suppose, but more likely typos. Argg, that damn word peninsula (r).

    Thanks for your input IAS. My sister is a secondary school teacher in a private school and I can't imagine her not striking out errors. Maybe the key is that it is a private school. I really do agree that it is terribly important for kids to be read to. I suppose I was. Kids don't need to know much about computers until they are ten or so. Literacy should be good by then.

    I pretty well agree with all you say Fen. Although the niece I was particularly referring to is now in a broken home, she was brought up in a loving environment. She has a wonderful mother who is full of love. Just perhaps not great writing skills.

    Again AIS, kids under the age of four need self esteem? They need to learn right and wrong and communication skills.

    Dina, I agree about your grandmother. She could still communicate in writing, as can my nephew. But you cannot get away with that these days. Clearly Jack will be literate, but if he wasn't, haha, you would be to blame. No teacher to blame. I wish niece lived closer to us and I would give remedial English. I would have to try to make it interesting. I am sure she does not have a learning difficulty. She can manage without anyway as she is such a charmer.

    Fen, you are so right about a crowded curriculum. Reading, writing and expression should come first. The rest is a bonus. Maths matters little in my opinion. That is what calculators are for. There is no tool for reading or writing that can come anywhere near the ability of a calculator for maths. I have forgotten how to written long division. Who cares? My phone can do it for me.

    Once again IAS. I am the last person to give advice, but what about getting your daughter to read things that interest her out loud to you? I am ashamed of my hand writing, embarrassed too. I am a victim of the change from cursive script to printing. I never learnt either well. Any writing I do, I pass off to my partner if I can.

    Brownie, I am still out on texting. But I think my niece may well be a texting victim before she knew how to text, if that makes any sense. She just does not care. Don't provoke me to another rant about public funding of private schools.

    Your opinion is clear Jayne and is sound judgment IMO. But I am sure there are plenty of teachers out there who try hard.

    Take a breath Andrew, that one went off.

  15. Oh yeah Brownie. Yes, word play. I thought it was pretty obvious. Clearly not to newcomers.

    And Cazzie, I bet you or A read them bed time stories.

  16. I fink kidds 2day dont no litrassy becos their awl illitrate wich meens they hav no mums an dadds wich makes them basturdz an besidez hte intornet iz 2 blaim becos it uzes newspeke wat jorje orwell worned uz abowt LOLROTFLMAO :@)

  17. Sally1:25 pm

    Your writing is inept, consistently leaving words out of sentences. It's laziness, or dyslexia, I don't know which.

  18. Ah Sally, hi and welcome. It is not just my writing that is inept. I am inept at many things. Sometimes I notice missing words and pop them in. Clearly sometimes I don't.

  19. I had wondered where you'd disappeared to :P

  20. Nasty commentors invariably have no blog of their own.
    Conclusion: Nasty, and cowardly as well.

  21. Keep your cast offs pls Jayne.

    Yep Brownie, I have noticed this. I get very very few though.

  22. wow Sally, obviously your parents didn't teach you much in the way of manners!


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