As a special-education teacher who has been co-teaching in language-arts classrooms for nineteen years, the reason I give my students, for why we read and write, has changed dramatically over time.
When I was in my twenties, I never really thought about why I wanted my students to understand the importance of reading and writing. It was simply my job to get them to be able to do so in a higher manner than they had done the previous year.
In my thirties, the reality that the United States was not a top contender internationally was becoming evident, and so, leaving no child behind and racing to the top pressured teachers to stress the importance of high test scores so that they could
go to college, earn a degree, and become a valuable part of the work force,
as well as a contributing member of society. And yes, I was generally aware that having the skills to read and write did make living in society much easier than not.
In my forties, with the rising cost of a college education, and no real guarantee a degree equals a job, and the exponential rise of social media coming into play (people having more access to visual images than printed ones),students are beginning to sense that learning to read and write is someone else’s desire for them and not, necessarily, one they have of their own.
Now, with that said, there are always exceptions to the rule: students that seem to be self-motived, those who wish to rise to their highest potential. In my experience, however, this only tends to be 10-20% of the population.
Most students are too worried about their home life or social life to be worried by academics; although, I would say about 98% do care about their grades, just not necessarily at the expense of their social time.
So, in my forties, I am still left with the question why should I, or my students, care about wanting to read and write?
Through my own personal life experience, and observation of others, I have come to this conclusion:
We read because something inside of us missing. We are like a gigantic puzzle that wants to be put back together. We are missing a piece of ourselves that, if we find it, and place it back inside, our inner world will seem more clear and will leave us feeling more complete and whole.
We write, then, because we found answers to some problem that we wish to share with the world either to inform or entertain for free, or as an attempt to make a profit. In either case, we share what we write to be heard, to have someone, through a like, a comment, or simply by seeing the number of people who viewed our material say, literally, or hidden in the numbers, “I saw you. I heard you, and what you learned, experienced, shared mattered.”
But sharing everything, as our society is learning, isn’t always necessary helpful to the collective whole, so one must take the time and really think about why they are writing, or created other forms of social media to share.
In addition, so much social media has been created that it is easy to copy someone else’s voice and style instead of taking the time to find one’s own.
But as we find our own voice, and share it through our own style and release it, this world becomes that much more of a richer and intriguing place to explore and experience. And so that missing piece of what was missing becomes filled, and the piece we put out into the world makes the picture of the world that much more complete. And that is why we must learn to read and write, for without sharing our piece of this life’s experience, the world is left empty.
So please, find your voice, if you haven’t already. The world needs it.