Helping the 750 million adults worldwide who lack literacy skills requires reading between the lines.
That, in essence, is a central premise of The Wiley Handbook of Adult Literacy, edited by Dolores Perin, Professor of Psychology & Education and Director of TC’s Applied Education Psychology: Reading Specialist Program.
The book addresses topics ranging from word structure to the teaching of literacy skills in prisons, to literacy and social change in South Asia. It also links three seemingly disparate groups: adults with low reading skills (typically those who haven’t finished secondary education and may not be native English speakers); students who enter community colleges with low literacy skills; and higher-skilled adults (including in graduate school) who have dyslexia.
“A large proportion of people in each of these populations have a problem with awareness of phonemes, the smallest unit of sound that we can appreciate,” Perin explains. “That issue is a real drag on their ability to make reading automatic.”
Higher-skilled people with dyslexia may appear to be functioning well, but often reading and writing tasks are extremely effortful for them — they may have to work eight times as hard.
— Dolores Perin, Professor of Psychology & Education
People in each group also have low literacy skills in relation to specific tasks that confront them: “Higher-skilled people with dyslexia may appear to be functioning well, but often they are subject to severe difficulty and stress because reading and writing tasks that are easy for others are extremely effortful for them — they may have to work eight times as hard.”
In the United States, Perin laments, “there’s this idea that when people have been through 12 years of school but have low literacy skills, it’s their fault, and society shouldn’t have to pay for them twice. So there isn’t much funding for these populations, which is disgraceful.” She hopes her book will “stimulate new research that will benefit all three populations.”