The Knowledge Gap
I just read an article in Reading Research Quarterly about a research project in the Philadelphia Public Libraries. In an effort to "level the playing field," the city had updated the technology and resources in many of the Free Library of Philadelphia's branches, focusing especially on those in low-income neighborhoods. When researchers observed library use, though, they found that the gap between the reading activities of low and middle income kids actually grew. The problem was that the higher-income kids were mentored from preschool age on by parents in how to select age-appropriate books, use computers, and acquire information, while the lower-income kids had little adult support. They ended up reading books (and later, visiting web sites) far below their reading level.
The gap increases exponentially as the years go by. It's almost biblical: to all those who have, more will be given. Once you have a little knowledge, it's easier to gain more. But when you have a hard time finding out what you need to know, then you get less practice, and grow even slower that your peers at acquiring information. I guess our information-rich age augments this problem.
So I'm thinking on the one hand--by the time kids are in college, is it too late to close the gap? On the other hand, if it's not, we ought to be loading down our most challenged kids with more and more reading, in order to help them succeed? This is the principle used in a lot of at-risk K-12 schools, with their extended school years, long school days, and elimination of recess.
I would like to USE technology, specifically online summer reading courses, to help close the knowledge gap. Any ideas about how to make this work?