Published on September 9th, 2014 | by Richard Black


Preschool Illiteracy, Help Me Help You Help Our Children


This kid can’t really read. She’s faking. I mean seriously she’s sitting on a pile of books. What literate kid does that?

I recently discovered that my daughter is illiterate.

Being a moderately attentive parent, I’ve been aware of my daughter’s failings in this regard and the news didn’t come as a huge surprise. She is four after all and I’ve heard that most children aren’t able to read until they’re five or six and I’m not overly concerned.

The news apparently came as something of a shock to Darcy’s teachers which I found a bit shocking in return. The realization that there might be four year old children who can read had never occurred to me. Fortunately Darcy’s teachers cured me of my ignorance by blasting out an email to the parents. The bulk of the message discussed how the kids were settling in and the learning where to hang up their coats, or wash their hands or bend spoons while solving quadratic equations. You know the usual sorts of things four year olds are usually trying to figure out.

In addition to proper garment placement, telekinesis and discovering how pointless algebra really is the kids in Darcy’s class will be learning how to write. Once every week each child will take home a book an write some basic information about him or herself next to a picture so that we can all get acquainted and, assuming no one in the class has a parent who is a child predator, I think it’s a fantastic idea.

I’ll be honest I didn’t really pay much attention to the word “write” in context with the whole book idea at first. Given the amount of information about each children that would be in the book (first and last names, favorite toys, foods, siblings’ names) I was more concerned about it being used as a primer for beginning pederasts. Slowly however I noticed that the assumptions being made throughout the email became a bit surreal which I will relate below with my reactions.

“As you may have heard we are having each child in the class take this book home to read and the write a few things about themselves. We hope that as you read it they will “read” it to you too!”

How cute right?

“Every day we try to have them pen a few thoughts about the letter of the week…”

Wait. What?

“However if you’re child is already writing and reading a lot they might be a little bored…”

What. In the Fuck. Just Happened?


Show off.

I was then notified that if I had seen my child’s work come home with her name written in yellow marker and traced over in red that my child may need a “little extra practice writing their name.”I raced to my desk and rifled through a folder that contained my daughter’s work and there it was in bright yellow letters; my daughter’s name. It turns out that Darcy needs quite a bit of help writing her name. The palsied red tracings she made around the teacher’s perfect yellow letters looked as if they were written by some suffering from end stage Parkinson’s. This realization however wasn’t the last nor the worst as, a few minutes later, I understood that not only could my daughter not write, she couldn’t read either. It was really quite a day.

Fortunately I’m an optimist and took some solace in knowing that, given the means in which the information was provided, there were probably some other dullards in Darcy’s class whose monstrous  parents couldn’t be troubled teach them how to read French and appreciate Proust at the tender age of five. Despite that small comfort I still worried and did what I believe most parents would do in this day and age which is spend the next five hours online to research preschool illiteracy.

It turns out that a great many four year olds are illiterate. Regardless of race or nationality a staggering 99.6% of children under the age of four cannot read or even write. Even more startling is the fact that most of them cannot recite the entire alphabet, diagram a simple sentence or possess a rudimentary understanding punctuation. It’s a travesty to be honest and a sad state of affairs when the vast majority of our four year old children cannot even such cherished books as “The Bernstein Bears Visit a Meatpacking Facility” or even “Dick Eats Jane”.

UF_poor_box_090914If history however has taught me anything it’s that if you’re not part of the solution then you’re part of the problem. It is in that spirit that I will be asking for funds to start the Richard Black’s Preschool Literacy Program. The initial round of funding, targeted at $10 million, will provide our organization with enough capital to lobby Congress, build an institute to research this issue and, perhaps most importantly, develop a campaign to solicit more funds.

With your generous help we can end this terrible scourge. It is my firm belief that within five years the vast majority of all of these children will be able to read and write at a fourth or fifth grade level. Unfortunately that is only a portion of the problem as more and more children enter pr school each and every year who cannot read. In order to reach them, in order to educate them and then educate the educators I will most likely need more money to further our cause.

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