“You Don’t Have to Be Some Great Reader”

From today’s edition of POLITICO’s Morning Education:

HILLARY CLINTON REVISITS EARLY ED: Hillary Clinton told the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters last night that she would like to see the number of families the program serves “grow exponentially” in the coming years. Clinton spoke at the organization’s annual awards dinner. She touted the benefits of early education and the Clinton Foundation’s “Too Small to Fail” initiative, which encourages parents to read and talk to their children. A mother told Clinton recently that she couldn’t read very well. “I said ‘You’re talking to a 6-month-old. Just hold the book, tell a story, point to pictures,'” Clinton said. “You don’t have to be some great reader.’ (my emphasis)

I understand the well-intentioned point here: all parents, whatever their literacy level, can and should talk with their kids and introduce them to books and other printed materials. Which is fine, but the fact is, a parent’s poor literacy really can have a huge negative impact on the literacy development of their children.(See here, here, and especially here, for example). We should encourage individual parents with poor literacy skills to introduce books to their kids as best they can, but that doesn’t mean that parents with low literacy skills isn’t a problem. Suggesting otherwise will lead to unwise policy choices.