serious for the Sunday before Christmas.
Our national newspaper carried a major front page article about literacy and literacy levels yesterday. Most of it was predictable. It really said nothing new, certainly nothing my father and I are not already aware of.
I went off to do some essential shopping I had planned to do on Monday. (Monday morning will, with luck, be taken up with a visit to the dentist to get a filling replaced!)
The shopping centre was crowded and, being the festive season, there was some "entertainment". This time it was in the form of two "electronic pianos". I assume those playing them were chosen students. One was a small Chinese boy, aged perhaps nine or ten. He played a number of Christmas carols very competently and very seriously. His mother was standing at a distance watching him. People walked backwards and forwards. Were they really aware of him. I doubt most of them were - or gave any thought to the hours of work that must have gone into the performance.
I wondered what else he did and whether he had time to read - or rather, whether he had time to read for pleasure.
He is probably intelligent. He probably reads well but I would not be surprised to find he does not read fiction.
My own godson is not keen on fiction. He would rather play the latest "Angry Birds" game. His mother has tried to get him to read. I have tried. He is "not interested". He is distracted by screen games. I suspect many other children are distracted by screen games too.
Later a friend called in here and I mentioned it to her. As a former teacher of the deaf she is very aware of literacy issues. We both agreed that some, perhaps many, children are "time poor". They do not make time to read and, sometimes, do not have the time. It is said that as many as a quarter of Australian students cannot read at the desired level for their age but there is more to reading than that. I suspect there are many others who could do well on a "literacy test" but they are not really literate. There is a vast difference between being able to read a short piece, often factual in content, and answer questions about it and being able to read an entire book. Reading a work of fiction is about more than reading the words on the page.
I wonder if some of those "competent" readers are in fact not really good readers at all and whether we should not be worrying just as much about them as those who have not reached the level educators have set.
The little pianist can read music but can he read a book about someone who plays music?