Breaking the Cycle of Poverty, Stress, and Illiteracy
It is undeniable that poverty has a direct impact on children’s development. Millions of children around the world live in poverty and suffer from human rights violations, such as abuse and working exploitation.
Literacy seems to be the key to lifting children out of poverty, but what if their minds are overwhelmed by stress? According to research, children raised in poverty are more prone to suffer from stress and the long-term effects can be detrimental. They will struggle to make informed decisions, recall information, and exercise sound judgment. Their creative thinking abilities will also be limited.
It is therefore imperative that the effects of stress are taken into consideration when outlining strategies to reduce illiteracy.
Transform the Role of Teachers
To empower children to participate and ask questions, teachers must establish a learning environment based on psychological safety. Some strategies include sticking to a predictable schedule, celebrating small goals, and personally addressing each child’s needs.
Since poverty can impact memory, it is also crucial that teachers extend patience and reassure students that it is okay to make mistakes. Fear of punishment or embarrassment will only stifle curiosity.
Finally, teachers must be trained to monitor and identify signs of stress in their students, should they need additional support.
Involve Parents and Families
Research shows that parents in poverty may become less inviting and compassionate as they try to balance finances, health, and caregiving. If parents are emotionally distant and cannot afford to prioritize their children’s development, this will cause additional stress.
As literacy requires time, encouragement and practice, children without support will lose out on valuable opportunities to apply their learning. By providing parents with support in the form of plans, materials, and a forum to seek advice, they can play a more active role in integrating literacy and a well-rounded education into their child’s day-to-day life.
Children in poverty and living under stressful situations often feel alienated from others and have difficulty expressing themselves. Loneliness will only increase the anxiety they feel, further inhibiting their potential and continuing the cycle.
To foster more connection, children should be taught in collaborative settings. Encouraging children to read alongside their peers, share feedback, and build relationships provides a more engaging and enriching experience. A good learning experience that produces results should not feel like work – it should be fun!
The World Literacy Foundation strives to ensure its initiatives mitigate stress. Parental guides are provided to empower families to support children at home. Children also have access to literacy tutoring sessions in which they can safely learn, play, and even share a meal. The WLF has rolled out initiatives like the Kids Read One! Project to allow an entire class to read, learn, and socialize together.