Love Learning & Lose Lousy Literacy Levels

An apology regarding that title is probably needed. Okay, I am sorry. I could not help myself . . . , I love the English language, including alliteration and other rhetorical devices. What I do not like is our language being slaughtered. Now, I am not referring to people who have English as their second, or even third language. Those people have an excuse. If English is your second language and you can be understood, then that is good enough. And, most people I have worked with who have had English as their second language are on a sharp learning curve to get better and better at it. All of you are far more proficient at English than I am at any other languages except for English. No, when I make accusations about our language being slaughtered, I am referring to adult native born Aussies who have not made the effort to learn the language they have lived with their entire life.

Spoken language can be more casual than the written word. And, those who are only semi-literate can usually get by if all they do is speak. Isn’t it true that before you can do something you need to learn to do it first? So, if you are planning on writing, you really should learn how to write first. And, learning to write does involves having at least a basic knowledge of vocabulary, grammar and spelling. I think our problems started about twenty-five years ago. That’s about the time the World Wide Web was invented. Prior to that, most people who wrote were reasonably well educated and they knew how to write. But now, everyone writes and publishes.

Oh! I see, you did not finish high school.

Sorry, that is not an acceptable excuse. You don’t need a degree in linguistics in order to write basic English. We can all learn through the process of osmosis. Read, then read some more. No, not that ungrammatical, poorly punctuated, wrongly spelt nonsense on Facebook or Twitter. That is just reinforcing your mistakes and bad habits. Read stuff that has been written by people who know how to write. Start with some newspapers, or magazines. You may even progress to some novels.

All of us are entitled to make mistakes. Frequently I type “form” when what I want is “from”. If what we are typing is an important document for business or otherwise, then it is important we take extra care with our proof reading of it. A second set of eyes perusing the document could also be advisable. But for regular writing, the occasional mistake is okay. Making a so called “typo” though, is very different from someone who does not understand basic rules of punctuation such as the use of an apostrophe.

Are there any others out there who cringe when they read “your” when the writer really should have used “you’re”? Then there is “their”, “there” and “they’re”. There are many people out there with their limited knowledge of the English language who don’t seem to know their there, from their they’re.

One of the business cards I was given from a photographer has printed on it that he is the “Principle Photographer” with his firm. I wonder what principles he follows! Perhaps he is referring to the rule of thirds or some other photographic rules. It would seem that neither the photographer nor the firm that printed his business cards knew the difference between “principle” and “principal”.

There is a book I have in the planning stage. Its title is “Write Right”. I wanted to keep the book and the title very simple. I even have an ISBN allocated to it. That was about three years ago. Very little progress has been made on the book. In fact I have published several other books since starting that one. It was to have been a book explaining the difference in meaning and spelling between some words, and some simple punctuation and grammar rules. The target market was to have been adults who use “your” when they really mean “you are” or “you’re”. And, if the posts I have read on Facebook are any indication, if this book was purchased by those who needed it, it would be a best seller. “Need” however, is very different from “want”.

But, I don’t think I will ever finish this book. Because, if I did, I doubt that I would sell many copies at all. The problem as I see it is that people don’t know what they don’t know! Those who don’t know, seem to be happy remaining ignorant.

Most books I have published are related to photography, but other publications of mine have included; “Understanding Australian English”, “Aussie Humour and Slang”, “Powerful, Professional, Personal Presentations”, “Rhetorical Devices” and “A to Zed of Aussie Slang”. None of these have been best sellers, but sales are steady and continuing. This would not be the case I believe if I completed and published “Write Right”. The book is aimed at an entirely different market. If I was to publish something I would probably assign the ISBN I already have to a different title. I think the title for this blog, “Love Learning & Lose Lousy Literacy Levels”, has a better ring to it than “Write Right”. What do you think?

Back to that title I chose for this blog, “Love Learning & Lose Lousy Literacy Levels”. Yes, it is time for a second apology from me. I am guilty of breaking one of my own rules. For the last twenty-five or so years, most of my work has been in the tertiary education sector. Participants in my classes on communication were always told to never use the ampersand in written English. And, here I am using it in the title of this blog. Those alliterative L’s would have lost something with an “and” instead of the ampersand, so, I have taken some author’s license.

At the age of almost seventy-one, I retired from pursuits in pedagogy in December last year. My career in education has spanned approximately half a century. A major component of that work in the first half of that half century was working in the Primary, Secondary and Special education sectors. As I have mentioned already, the second half of the half century was working mainly with adults.

Ages of participants with whom I have been involved have ranged from preschoolers in early intervention classes to elderly adults. Intelligence has ranged from students who were profoundly disabled to those who were gifted and talented. Many adults in my classes in the last few years for example, have held multiple degrees, including degrees at Master and Doctorate levels. Diversity in culture, age, intelligence and other attributes has been a feature of the thousands of participants with whom I have had the pleasure of working throughout my career.

One common factor with many of those different people that I have really appreciated was a love of learning. Not all had it, but many did. When I had success in helping to engender it in some participants, it gave me a real buzz.

My many different roles throughout my career were all enjoyable. There are tasks and some aspects of the work involved that are disliked in all jobs, but I don’t think I ever had a job that I really didn’t like. Having said that though, I have never really wanted to return to a previous role that I had. Always, I was happy to move onto something new.

My last role in the Special Education sector was Senior Teacher-in-charge of Special Education in the Southern Darling Downs district. I was based at Warwick East State School, which of course is in Warwick. Here is a bit of information you can store away in your grey matter just in case you ever get asked the trivial pursuit question, “What was the first public school to be built and operate in Queensland”? The answer is Warwick East State School.

I remember well the class of teenagers I worked with at that school. They ranged in age from thirteen to eighteen, and they all loved stories. Their favourite was, “The Bunyip in the Billycan” a children’s story written by Mavis Scott. None of the kids could read the text, but they could certainly read the colourful illustrations. Some could even open each page and tell the story. Well, not word for word for what was written in the text, but they knew the gist of the story. Whenever asked if they wanted a story, the answer was always “yes”. And when asked, “What story would you like”? The answer invariably was, “Bunyip”.

The school had its own pottery room and kiln. Over a period of almost a year, the class and I made a large ceramic mural, with permission of the book’s author and illustrator, of one of the illustrations in “The Bunyip and the Billycan”. It consisted of tiles which were first bisque fired and then glazed and bolted individually onto a large sheet of five-ply with a solid wood border around the outside. At one stage it was hung in the school library. I wonder if it is still there.

Engendering a love of reading is important for all kids of all ages, if we are to help optimise their educational development. It is a great pity that so many kids these days spend so much of their time playing games on smart phones and other electronic gadgets. Books are not as popular as they once were as there are so many other things to occupy young and not so young minds. Occasionally I catch public transport, and I never ceased to be amazed at the number of thumbs tapping away on smart phones. In years gone by many passengers would instead be reading newspapers and magazines.

So, anyone who encourages kids to read more needs to be commended.

Photography is one of my passions. On last Saturday I had the opportunity of photographing a group of young kids with children’s story books. The author of the books wanted photographs for her new web site. Before the shoot I knew that the lady involved was a children’s book author, but I had no idea at all what her books were about.

Janine Thomas is a children’s book author with a difference. She has a series of templates with well illustrated full colour graphics. When she receives an order from someone wanting a book for a particular child, Janine inserts that child’s name into the story. The child in effect becomes the hero of the story, and a book is printed and published specifically for that child.

What a fantastic way to get children to read, having them in a story which is all about them.

Janine calls her business, It’s All About Me Kids. Clicking on that link will take you to her web site. To see her Facebook page, click on It’s All About Me Kids Facebook page.

From the shoot I obtained several hundred quality photos of the kids. Some on their own, some interacting with others, and some reading their books. I decided to put all of these photographs together into a book of my own. Oops! I should have said several books. Because there are several different editions. One is a paperback edition which contains seventy-six pages measuring eight and a half inches by eleven inches, in full colour. The other editions are E-Books which are inexpensive and available for instant download. You have the choice of Amazon Kindle, EPUB or PDF for these instant downloads. Although there are different editions with different covers, the contents in each of these books is identical. I have links to them all on a new page I have included on one of my web sites. The page is called Kids Love Books.