Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Literacy Summit: the first step on a long road ahead

If you attended the Literacy Summit, thank you!

If you didn't, you missed a very informative event. Although we heard from people who are near and dear to Monterey County -- Sylvia Panetta and CSUMB President Eduardo Ochoa, for instance -- there were also newcomers to the community and great experts in the issue of demographics and literacy.

The aim of the Literacy Campaign of Monterey County was to bring speakers who would discuss the issues of low-levels of literacy in Monterey County -- and the nation for that matter. As many of you already know, we face great challenges in our community as we try to educate our young and prepare them for an economically productive future. Only about a third of third graders in Monterey County score proficient or above in English language arts, and experts believe students start falling behind after the third grade if they don't read proficiently.

Francine Rodd, executive director of First Five Monterey County, made a presentation about how the learning has to start even earlier: as soon as babies are born, or when they're still in the womb. The first few years of a child's life are critical for brain development, and if mothers don't read to their children or don't engage with them, the children will have a hard time catching up later, according to a video presented by Rodd.

But the most compelling presentation -- in my opinion -- came from USC Demographer Dowell Myers: today's babies are tomorrow's taxpayers. If these children don't grow up to be educated adults, they won't be able to hold productive lifestyles, and they won't be able to support the retiring generation. They won't be able to pay into Medicare and Social Security to support the older generations, they won't earn enough to buy the homes, the "nest eggs" of retiring boomers.

Helping the next generation is not altruism. It's self-interest.

In order for the next generation to be productive, we need to help our children now. Better child care needs to be available. More programs for young parents to help them raise their children. A movement to make literacy Monterey County's first priority.

Friday's even was a great first step. At the end of the day, attendants chatted in small groups about what they're willing to do to promote literacy. There was a lot of enthusiasm and energy in the group, so it'll be interesting to see what ideas come to life.

Here's a snippet from Dowell Myers presentation. Enjoy!

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