Why literacy skills matter

“Literacy is the most basic currency of the knowledge economy.” This is a famous quote by former president of USA, Barack Obama. It is a weighty statement in the circles of education because it stresses the importance of the two skills of reading and writing. Mr. Obama singles spells out the importance of reading saying: “If you know how to read, then the whole world opens up to you.”

As an educator, I have always had a passion for the four basic communication skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking. Without these skills, we cannot communicate. Psychologists believe that human beings have innate abilities to communicate but we cannot shy away from the fact that some of these skills are taught. As a matter of fact, psychologists and researchers keep crafting different ways in which we can learn these skills better to improve our communication skills especially on the part of expressing ourselves clearly and being understood.

What this essentially means to us as teachers is that we have to design deliberate ways to teach these skills. One of these deliberate ways is through the literacy program which the school began in term 1to students of Year 1, 2, 3 and 4.  If literacy is the most basic currency of the knowledge economy, we do a disservice to our children if we do not equip them with the skills to communicate better.

 The focus of the literacy program therefore is to equip our learners with the basic tools of reading and handwriting to help them to communicate better. Consequently, we have special lessons three times a week in which for forty minutes, our teachers work with the children using activities that will develop the skills of reading and handwriting which are fundamental skills of any curriculum. Some of our  parents jumped on board to volunteer and this made the program a success. 

Good handwriting not only shows discipline but also goes a long way to show clear communication.  Psychologists and researchers tell us that good handwriting enhances intellectual literacy. They stress it that during tactile movements of the hand, the brain is engaged in more areas and the information is engrained in the brain which is not the case with typing. Handwriting was found to be important to small children who are learning to read because by forming the individual letters, they have a deeper understanding of the anatomy of each one and were therefore able to recognize it when it came to reading on the page.

Some people are always undermining the need to teach these skills putting handwriting and technology in opposing corners and ignorantly castigating the proponents of teaching these skills as being stuck in the past. Researchers and scientists have done scans on the brains of children doing cursive handwriting and found out that it was beneficial to their brains. Different parts of the brain that were actually involved were similar to those adults typically use when engaged in writing and doing higher order reasoning. The screen went blank when children were typing because it didn’t involve the same type of tactile movements. Typing is a fundamental skill to have but it should not be done at the expense of handwriting.

As educators and parents, we have a collective responsibility to help and support our children to sharpen these important skills if not for the satisfaction of seeing well written work, but for passing on the baton of clear communication skills to the next generation.

By Mrs. Kembabazi Elizabeth, Primary Coordinator, HISU

The hand empowers the pen, the pen empowers the man. Let us keep focused and supporting the literacy program in the primary section.