Literacy....A Right.......(or why I went teaching).

Image result for 19th century girls learning to knit
Image Credit-that'smycornwall
I want to talk about literacy especially numeracy and text literacy for children.

I needed a context to put it in so the photograph above was sampled as an example of development in an impoverished area -Cornwall in late 19th Century. This photogenic girl will have practised her numeracy by counting her stitches. I would be making a judgement on her reading ability, but I doubt that a huge amount of time and effort would have been made by the relevant authorities to ensure that she could read with confidence. I did study history.

Our young girl would have had very basic literacy.

Then we move on to the Post-War time in Western Nations where after 1946 huge efforts were made to see to the general health and well-being of its citizens. Education was now mandatory for girls and boys. Anyone who has watched "Call The Midwife" BBC will have got this message and its background clearly in their understanding.

Here in New Zealand we adopted the same policies with a big emphasis on early intervention. 

We all believed the future would be bright and everyone would have jobs and all would be perfect.

Bob hoskins filming ruby blue cropped.jpg
Bob Hoskins photographed during filming of Ruby Blue 2009
Then, in the 1970's some sad holes in our Brave New World began showing up and one of them was illiteracy especially in working-class men. We never addressed the issue of boys only seeing men in the classroom until Secondary Level. It was all to common for women to be in Primary Teaching and boys do not necessarily learn to read and write the same way as girls nor do they learn easily from female teachers. Boys can and do resist learning in a classroom run by a woman simply as a gendered reaction. When they get to Secondary school and have missed those basics they are set up for failure. Equally Western nations seem not to put much emphasis on having male primary teachers. These are exactly the teachers young boys need to see in their schools.

I do remember being shocked. As a child then, not learning to read was akin to behaving badly. You only had yourself to blame. You were considered stupid if you couldn't read.

The lovely actor Bob Hoskins got his first big acting break playing the part of a working class bloke struggling with illiteracy....and how he functioned well until details like tax or appointments came up. He took care with the role placing so much humanity into it that he changed a nation's perception of the problem. It played as a short Public Service Announcement drama on our television screens and could not be avoided easily. From memory it played shortly before the News in the weekend.

I think it shamed us into re-thinking attitudes....and inspired the desire to see it put right for some of us.

These days literacy and numeracy are so caught up with Special Needs such as Dyslexia, Dispraxia, ADHD, Autism and Aspergers...a huge turn around from the Post-War straightforward plan of getting every child to read using the same basic methods and the same graded readers.

Knitting is now being taught in classrooms as a calming activity so that children CAN learn to read and write.

Remember literacy is a right not a privilege.

Below is a clip from the series "On The Move" featuring a young Bob Hoskins and a young Martin Shaw. 

Bye for now.

Fiona MacBride
Tin Shed Yarns