There are compelling changes taking place in the world. We are learning about children. What we saw as a little human waiting to grow big is really a voracious, rapidly developing brain inside a slowly, but more visibly developing body. The young brain grows at an unparalleled rate, but we can’t s e e it like we can see the body grow. The body explores the world to feed the developing brain, as, interestingly, the brain must progress ahead of the body in order to safeguard the survival of the child. There is such beautiful logic, so much of which we don’t see by casual observation. Look intentionally, and you will!
Understanding the learning potential of young children can change the world in dramatic ways. It can ensure peace or exacerbate war. That little brain is going to adapt whether it means pulling a trigger or planting a seed. Peace Corps and Rotary International are powerful organizations dedicated to a peaceful world. One of the avenues to that end is literacy. If children are able to read, they will be more informed and can make decisions for themselves. People who can read are more able to take charge of their lives and are less likely to be victimized.
“I will help you learn to read!” Beyond health and love, there is NO greater gift for a child or the world then literacy. Collaborations between organizations such as Rotary International and the Peace Corps in South Africa are reaching thousands of children in rural communities. Urban populations in South Africa and in Puerto Rico are involved in literacy projects funded by The Rotary Foundation. The world may turn a little more smoothly for these children thanks to such globally minded literacy efforts.
On a smaller – but no less important – scale are individuals who are equally driven to help children. SenseAble Learning’s Della Palacios in Florida, USA, and Nikolai Pizarro in Puerto Rico with her publication Ring the Alarm are examples of the many hands reaching out to children. Della and Nikolai know the power of the young, developing mind. They know our tomorrows are defined by the experiences offered a child today.
Another hand reaching out and a thread that runs through each of the efforts mentioned above – Souns for literacy – is designed in response to the way children learn best. Souns breathes life into the tools of print, w h a t e v e r t h e l a n g u a g e. In the hands of children, Souns leads naturally and incrementally to letter-sound knowledge which leads incidentally to reading. Reading leads to success in school; and success in school leads to a more independent life. The result of an independent life is the ability to see beyond oneself, a necessity if we are to ensure peace. Many hands or the hands of one can make a difference – Every child wants to read.
Unfortunately, even with Rotary, Peace Corps, committed individuals, and so much information about how children learn, building readers remains a global challenge. We construct schools, hire fabulous teachers, stock libraries, give books; but, in the end, the parent who is with the child during the most formative years holds the key to reading. We must empower parents from the ground up if we are to impact literacy in a global way. All efforts, large or small, must touch the family, acknowledging parents as the real unit of change!