Homelessness and Literacy

Morgan Phillips

“Ninety-two percent of the children rated school as ‘very important’ to them, while parents, when asked an open-ended question what their children needed the most, indicated that a good education was the most important need after basic survival needs of housing, food, and clothing have been met.” (Jacobs) These children and parents that answered these questions were not just normal people living middle class lives. These people “lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence or live in a shelter, an institution, or a place not designed, or ordinarily used, as a sleeping accommodation for human beings” (MacGillivary). To simplify, they are homeless. People are struggling with homelessness and it often goes unnoticed. There are many people all over the world who need help in getting a proper education, but their living situation is not letting them receive the education they need. The graph below from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development shows the amount of homelessness in just the United states alone. This essay will show the effects of homelessness on children and family literacy, or the ability to read and write and to receive a quality education.

 

 

homelessness map

In her academic journal, Mary Jacobs accounts the stories of six homeless families and their experiences with homelessness and literacy. The families she interviewed lived in a homeless shelter in College Town, Chicago. Jacobs ran a family story time at the shelter and interviewed the six families that came to her program. These families came to this literacy program because literacy and education is important to them, as you can see from the quote at the opening of the paper. “All of the families in the study moved from inner city neighborhoods to College Town in search of a better life.” These families moved to the shelter in search of a new life and better education for their children. One couple, William and Julissa, “left Gary, Indiana to provide a safer environment” (Jacobs).

All of the families interviewed had good intentions and motives when living in the homeless shelter. They wanted their kids to have a chance at a proper education. Below is a graph from homesforfamilies.wordpress.com, that shows the amount of homeless students in school per academic year. “Parent optimism for the future was strongly supported by their common belief that education played a key role in changing their children’s lives for the better.” The parents don’t think that their families lives are stuck once they move to the shelter. They view the shelter as a safe haven and an opportunity for their kids to get the education they need to keep them from having to live in shelters like their parents. (Jacobs) studentsperyear

However, there is a problem in this situation. Despite how good the intentions of parents are or how much the families want an education, there is still a significant gap between homeless students and the school system. “Neoliberal education policy ascribes value to particular literacy practices within the institution of school, while limiting and denying access to people on the margins of these practices, boosted by economic policies that lead to racial, ethnic, and class exclusion such as gentrification and the encroaching privatization of education.” (Jacobs) In order to do well in a neoliberal school system, one must regularly attend school, work for long, studious hours on homework, and turn everything in on time and in it’s proper order. These may seem like simple, no brainers to those privileged to have a stable learning environment. Homeless children don’t always have this advantage. They don’t have a car to get consistent rides to school and if they move from shelter to shelter frequently, they don’t always even have a school that they stay at for a long period of time. In the shelters they face a different problem. There might not always be a quiet space to study available to them. Even if they wanted to work on their homework, they can’t always find a place to get work done in. Finally, if the homeless children can’t get to school consistently they can’t turn in things when they are due. Not to mention, they could possibly not be able to afford the supplies and meet the demands that the teachers require for their assignments. If a student must type something and turn in a printed copy, they won’t always have a printer available to them when they need it. What most American students would view as no problem and easy requirements, homeless students view them as what will make or break their chance at completing a quality education. “If schools are expected to provide an ‘appropriate’ education, teachers and policymakers will need to know a great deal more about the nature of the academic problems these children may have and the most promising means of addressing them.” (Ann) In order for homeless children to do well in school, there needs to be serious effort put forth on both sides.

Not only is their attendance affected, but because of this lack of attendance, the homeless students’ grades are affected. Ann S. Masten and other colleagues worked on a project together that followed families after they had left a homeless shelter and followed up on their children’s performance in school. “Multiple methods were used to gather information pertinent to school success, including individual tests, school records, teacher and parent ratings, and parent interviews. We were able to test 52 of the 73 children after they had left the shelter with the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test Screener” (Ann). At the start of the study, Ann and her colleagues expected that the students would have lower scores, more complaints from teachers about classroom behavior, and worse scores over all.

The different measures taken were the Individual Achievement Test which tested “normed achievement scores for Basic Reading, Mathematical Reasoning, and Spelling, as well as a composite score, Achievement ratings based on school records where two third party judges graded students school records on a 1-5 scale, Teacher ratings of achievement where teachers filled out two forms based on the “academic potential and progress” of each child on a five point scale, Parent reports of achievement, family history and school access where parents were asked “structured questions about school achievement and learning problems”, Intellectual functioning where nonverbal and verbal reasoning were tested and scores are placed into a percentile, Teacher ratings of adjustment where teachers graded students classroom adjustment, and Procedures where the children and parents were interviewed before and after the tests. The children’s “scores were significantly below normative levels for age and for grade, with 80% of the scores falling in the bottom quartile” (Ann).

“Some homeless children are able to succeed in school despite the many challenges they face, but others are at risk for emotional, physical, social, and behavioral problems” (Walker-Dalhouse). As one has read above, there are many problems when it comes to homeless children and getting a quality education. To some of these problems, however, there are solutions. One of the biggest problems used to be that homeless children were not treated fairly in schools or provided with the same opportunities as their classmates. So, there have been many laws established to help protect the rights of the homeless children. Some of the laws include The Original McKinney Act, The Amendments to the McKinney Act, The Illinois Education for Homeless Children Act- Charlie’s Law, and the No Child Left Behind Act. Each of these laws and acts insure that homeless children will get a fair chance at the education they deserve. If they do not get a fair chance, they have the law to back them up if it is taken to court (Nix-Hodes).

Another problem is that teachers often don’t know how to teach the homeless students in a way that will be beneficial to them. They don’t always understand that the homeless students learn differently than most students. In one study, a homeless student named Leslie was asked what teachers could do to help homeless students learn better in the classrooms. Leslie said, “Moments of quiet time and alone time can be especially important for children living among the commotion of others’ noise. Also, helping children adapt to a new school is more than providing a uniform curriculum.” Leslie went on to say that clearly telling the students what the rules and expectations of the classroom are, help them accumulate to the classroom easier instead of trying to figure out things on their own (MacGillvray).

One final problem, due to moving frequently and not having much quiet time, children miss out on family literature time, like story time or nursery rhymes. In her academic journal, Elizabeth Noll says, “Because I believe nursery rhymes are important in literacy development, my students and I read and recite them together.” Noll believes that reading and reciting nursery rhymes with children when they are younger will provide them with a good foundation in reading and a good start to memorizing information. Simply finding a way for children to go to library reading times or reading books and rhymes with your children, regardless of your living situation, will help provide a good educational foundation for future schooling (Noll).

Homelessness has a huge effect on children and family literacy. Not only are the parents affected, but their constant moving the family around affects how the children do in school. As Noll says in her academic journal, quoted earlier in this essay, “Homelessness has an impact on children’s literacy experiences, understandings, and background knowledge.”

-Mo~Money

Homelessness and Literacy

“Ninety-two percent of the children rated school as ‘very important’ to them, while parents, when asked an open-ended question what their children needed the most, indicated that a good education was the most important need after basic survival needs of housing, food, and clothing have been met.” (Jacobs) These children and parents that answered these questions were not just normal people living middle class lives. These people “lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence or live in a shelter, an institution, or a place not designed, or ordinarily used, as a sleeping accommodation for human beings” (MacGillivary). To simplify, they are homeless. This essay will show the effects of homelessness on children and family literacy.

In her academic journal, Mary Jacobs accounts the stories of six homeless families and their experiences with homelessness and literacy. The families she interviewed lived in a homeless shelter in College Town, Chicago. Jacobs ran a family story time at the shelter and interviewed the six families that came to her program. These families came to this literacy program because literacy and education is important to them, as you can see from the quote at the opening of the paper. “All of the families in the study moved from inner city neighborhoods to College Town in search of a better life.” These families moved to the shelter in search of a new life and better education for their children. One couple, William and Julissa, “left Gary, Indiana to provide a safer environment” (Jacobs)

All of the families interviewed had good intentions and motives when living in the homeless shelter. They wanted their kids to have a chance at a proper education. “Parent optimism for the future was strongly supported by their common belief that education played a key role in changing their children’s lives for the better.” The parents don’t think that their families lives are stuck once they move to the shelter. They view the shelter as a safe haven and an opportunity for their kids to get the education they need to keep them from having to live in shelters like their parents. (Jacobs)

However, there is a problem in this situation. Despite how good the intentions of parents are or how much the families want an education, there is still a significant gap between homeless students and the school system. “Neoliberal education policy ascribes value to particular literacy practices within the institution of school, while limiting and denying access to people on the margins of these practices, boosted by economic policies that lead to racial, ethnic, and class exclusion such as gentrification and the encroaching privatization of education.” (Jacobs) In order to do well in a neoliberal school system, one must regularly attend school, work for long, studious hours on homework, and turn everything in on time and in it’s proper order. These may seem like simple, no brainers to those of us privileged to have a stable learning environment. Homeless children don’t always have this advantage. They don’t have a car to get consistent rides to school and if they move from shelter to shelter frequently, they don’t always even have a school that they stay at for a long period of time. In the shelters they face a different problem. There might not always be a quiet space to study available to them. Even if they wanted to work on their homework, they can’t always find a place to get work done in. Finally, if the homeless children can’t get to school consistently they can’t turn in things when they are do. Not to mention, they could possibly not be able to afford the supplies and meet the demands that the teachers require for their assignments. If a student must type something and turn in a printed copy, they won’t always have a printer available to them when they need it. What most American students would view as no problem and easy requirements, homeless students view them as what will make or break their chance at completing a quality education. “If schools are expected to provide an ‘appropriate’ education, teachers and policymakers will need to know a great deal more about the nature of the academic problems these children may have and the most promising means of addressing them.” (Ann) In order for homeless children to do well in school, there needs to be serious effort put forth on both sides.

Not only is their attendance affected, but because of this lack of attendance, the homeless students’ grades are affected. Ann S. Masten and other colleagues worked on a project together that followed families after they had left a homeless shelter and followed up on their children’s performance in school. “Multiple methods were used to gather information pertinent to school success, including individual tests, school records, teacher and parent ratings, and parent interviews. We were able to test 52 of the 73 children after they had left the shelter with the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test Screener.” (Ann) At the start of the study, Ann and her colleagues expected that the students would have lower scores, more complaints from teachers about classroom behavior, and worse scores over all.

The different measures taken were the Individual Achievement Test which tested “normed achievement scores for Basic Reading, Mathematical Reasoning, and Spelling, as well as a composite score, Achievement ratings based on school records where two third party judges graded students school records on a 1-5 scale, Teacher ratings of achievement where teachers filled out two forms based on the “academic potential and progress” of each child on a five point scale, Parent reports of achievement, family history and school access where parents were asked “structured questions about school achievement and learning problems”, Intellectual functioning where nonverbal and verbal reasoning were tested and scores are placed into a percentile, Teacher ratings of adjustment where teachers graded students classroom adjustment, and Procedures where the children and parents were interviewed before and after the tests. The children’s “scores were significantly below normative levels for age and for grade, with 80% of the scores falling in the bottom quartile” (Ann).

“Some homeless children are able to succeed in school despite the many challenges they face, but others are at risk for emotional, physical, social, and behavioral problems” (Walker-Dalhouse). As one has read above, there are many problems when it comes to homeless children and getting a quality education. To some of these problems, however, there are solutions. One of the biggest problems used to be that homeless children were not treated fairly in schools or provided with the same opportunities as their classmates. So, there have been many laws established to help protect the rights of the homeless children. Some of the laws include The Original McKinney Act, The Amendments to the McKinney Act, The Illinois Education for Homeless Children Act- Charlie’s Law, and the No Child Left Behind Act. Each of these laws and acts insure that homeless children will get a fair chance at the education they deserve. If they do not get a fair chance, they have the law to back the mup if it is taken to court (Nix-Hodes).

Another problem is that teachers often don’t know how to teach the homeless students in a way that will be beneficial to them. They don’t always understand that the homeless students learn differently than most students. In one study, a homeless student named Leslie was asked what teachers could do to help homeless students learn better in the classrooms. Leslie said, “Moments of quiet time and alone time can be especially important for children living among the commotion of others’ noise. Also, helping children adapt to a new school is more than providing a uniform curriculum.” Leslie went on to say that clearly telling the students what the rules and expectations of the classroom help them accumulate to the classroom easier instead of trying to figure out things on their own (MacGillvray).

One final problem, due to moving frequently and not having much quiet time, children miss out on family literature time, like story time or nursery rhymes. In her academic journal, Elizabeth Noll says, “Because I believe nursery rhymes are important in literacy development, my students and I read and recite them together.” Noll believes that reading and reciting nursery rhymes with children when they are younger will provide them with a good foundation in reading and a good start to memorizing information. Simply finding a way for children to go to library reading times or reading books and rhymes with your children, regardless of your living situation, will help provide a good educational foundation for future schooling (Noll).

This essay shows the effects of homelessness on children and family literacy. Not only are the parents affected, but their constant moving the family around affects how the children do in school. As Noll says in her academic journal, quoted earlier in this essay, “Homelessness has an impact on children’s literacy experiences, understandings, and background knowledge.”

-MoMoney

Small Group Workdays

Here’s a run down of what the A Team did in class on each of our workdays. Enjoy.

 

Wednesday, February 10th

It’s a Wednesday. No one wants to do much. We were assigned our essays to read and then we talked about them. We all left early and that was all we did…

Monday, February 15th

monday.jpg

After analyzing our papers over the weekend, we met back up in class and went over major themes that we saw in the papers. We all decided who would write what in the paper and what our thesis and main point should be. We were a little more awake today, compared to last Wednesday, so more got done.

Wednesday, February 17th

Today we started writing our sections of the paper. We all got to work right away, however, I was really distracted and hungry and didn’t do much compared to everyone else. Still, work got done and we got a good start on the paper.

Friday, February 19th

We got the bulk of our writing done today. I actually worked more and we all finished up and polished the rough draft. We all worked together to get it done. The A Team was pretty great today.

Monday, February 22nd

This day we peer reviewed other people’s essays. We all put in good critiquing and through reviewing other papers, we got ideas on how to make ours better as well.

 

 

Personal Narrative: First Draft

Hey friends. If you’re back, it means a lot. If this is your first time here, Welcome. This is my first draft of a personal narrative for my Composition class. Give me some feedback on what you like or think I could improve. If you think this is terrible, well then just don’t comment. No body needs that kind of negativity in their life. Thanks fam, enjoy.

 

My World

I open the heavy, glass doors and the blast of air conditioning sends chills down my spine and goosebumps all over my body. My eyes adjust from sunlight to fluorescent bulbs. As I speed walk past the front desk, everything is a blur. The smell of new books and magazines fill my nostrils as I breathe deep in excitement. I race to the shelves of children’s books and stand in awe of the stories in front of me. The sound of typing, rustling pages, and murmured chatting doesn’t even phase me. I run my fingers across the spines of all the books I could read. Excitement exudes from my body as I pick out ten, twenty, and then thirty books and throw them in my drawstring bag. I search through the aisles for my mom to tell her, “Hurry up mom, I wanna go home and read.” Before I could even speak, she looked at how much I was struggling to hold my drawstring bag and then into my eyes, “Morgan, you know the rule. Only five books at a time. Go pick out five and put the rest back.” I drag my feet as I slowly walk back to the shelves. It felt like part of my heart was being ripped out as I returned the books to their proper homes. I walked to self-checkout, scanned all my books, and waited on the comfy couches for my mom and siblings to finish picking their books. I waited for the wave of my mom’s hand as she called me over to leave. I start for the car. Once again, my eyes readjusted to the change of lighting, as the summer heat hit me like a brick wall. The smell of the nearby bar and grill was overwhelming, but I wouldn’t let my hunger stop me. I rounded the corner, ran down the path to the parking lot, and slammed against the sliding door. I yanked that handle, it was locked. Mom reached the car and unlocked it. I scurried into the car and buckled my seatbelt. The car ride home was always the worst. Three minutes through town seemed like a lifetime when there were books waiting to be read hanging on my back. Then it happened, mom pulled into the driveway and parked the car. I practically fell out the door in a full sprint toward the backyard. I ran past the swing set, past the garden, over the creek, and straight into the forest. I climbed my favorite tree as fast as I could and settled into my reading spot. Finally, I was in my own world, with a world waiting to be discovered in my hands.

Fast forward to my high school years. I’m sitting in my eleventh grade British Literature class. Our teacher, Mrs. Reilly, is telling us all about the “fun” book we would be reading that quarter, Beowulf. Groans from students filled the classroom. As she began to describe the book, I focused on anything but her. I observed the room I had sat in for the past three months. I never read all the silly English posters she had plastered on the white cinderblock walls or noticed how stained the drop ceiling tiles were. As I used just one of my senses, the other four started to kick into motion as well. I could smell our school cafeteria on my classmate’s clothes. I could feel the warmth from the sun beating on my back from the four, huge windows behind me. I could still taste my lunch from the period before on my breath. I could hear our obnoxious history teacher shouting nonsense to the students across the hall. Suddenly, I was snapped out of my daydreaming by a paperback copy of Beowulf dropping on my desk. I opened the book and could have sworn tears were welling up in my eyes. Nothing excited me about reading. I flipped through the book and wasn’t surprised to find zero pictures or anything graphic. The pages full of fine print scared a sense of reality into me; I would struggle to read this book for the next quarter of high school. Of course I found the easy way out, Spark Notes. As each lesson approached, I read the chapters in Spark Notes and answered all the questions in class with ease. All my friends came to me for help. I aced all the tests and beamed with satisfaction of effectively cheating the system.

Senior year rolls around. This year I had American Literature, which meant The Scarlet Letter. I banked on passing English the same way I did the year before, cheating the system. However, a new obstacle stood in my way, a student teacher who demanded we read The Scarlet Letter silently in class. This meant I couldn’t use Spark Notes. I was doomed. After a couple of classes of rereading the same sentence over and over and over again, I decided it was time to once again cheat the system. I pretended to read and then read the Spark Notes version when I went home. Every day I would drag my book bag at my heels, flop myself on the couch, and let out a groan of discontent. After weeks of getting the same answer, my mom finally stopped asking what was wrong. I waited a couple of hours to start my homework. After school, cheer practice, and musical rehearsal, the last thing I wanted to do was stress myself out by trying to read. My ADHD made it impossible to focus on the confusing literature before me. I got through the Spark Notes, scribbled some notes, and went to my basement. The frustration of feeling inadequate, always made me so angry. I took this anger out through boxing. I blared my music, wrapped my knuckles, and stared the punching bag down. As I boxed until my knuckles bled, I thought about how fast life changed. Just years ago reading was my escape, but now here I was trying to find an escape from reading. I was in my own world, with the frustration of my old world being taken out through my hands.

~Mo-Money

Hi, I’m Morgan.. And I like to party.

Here we are. You have stumbled upon my blog. Was it a mere accident, or fate? Regardless of the circumstances you are here and there’s no turning back. So, lets celebrate

My name is Morgan Phillips. I am a freshman at Cedarville University. Currently I am undeclared, but that just means I can do anything. I spend most my time sleeping or eating. When I’m not doing either of those I spend time with my friends or force myself to do homework. My favorite food is steak and I like playing video games. I watch way too many movies and TV shows and could probably quote all of Hot Rod and The Office. Because of this love for movies, I never liked to read. I would rather watch something on a screen than read. I guess I like writing, but only if it won’t be graded. I write songs frequently and I write letters all the time, but if it’s graded, eh.

All you really need to know about me is that I once ate 25 pizza rolls in one sitting and I got my fourth concussion from hitting my head on a wall while laughing. I can’t think of anything to sum up myself better. So, I guess this is goodbye. Stay fresh my friends. No, not just fresh. Stay

 hot rod funky fresh.

-Sincerely, Mo-Money