Thursday, April 15, 2021

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Knew that Reading Mattered

While heartfelt tributes and political panic saturate America’s media platforms in the wake of RBG’s passing, her comments about the importance of reading also deserve our utmost attention.

Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true. — Ruth Bader Ginsburg

It’s hard to know how granular RBG’s knowledge of America’s literacy rates was but she certainly knew that far too many children’s futures were woefully limited because they could not read. Did she know that only 1/3 of students in the United States meet grade level benchmarks in reading? Did she know that boys consistently trail their sisters in reading by double digits and that gap is widening? Did she know that 90 percent of black boys in 8th grade do not read on grade level? Maybe, maybe not.

But she was unequivocal about the fact that reading played an integral role in her own life trajectory. She knew it opened up doors for her as a pioneer in the world of law, she knew it helped inform her vision for her life and she knew the remarkable life she built would have been impossible without it.

A renewed commitment to children’s literacy and a promise to use science based reading instruction in America’s classrooms would be one important way to honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy.

I tell law students… if you are going to be a lawyer and just practice your profession, you have a skill—very much like a plumber. But if you want to be a true professional, you will do something outside yourself… something that makes life a little better for people less fortunate than you.

People in positions of power have sat by and watched generations of children get sent out into the world without the ability to read. But if they want to be “true professionals”, they can honor this American icon’s memory by finally making literacy and reading instruction a priority — that would certainly make life better for those less fortunate.

Fortunes change when people can read.

Erika Sanzi
Erika Sanzi is a former educator and elected school committee member and the editor of this site, Project Forever Free. She is also a senior visiting fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Her blog is Good School Hunting and her Substack is Sanzi Says. She occasionally writes for other outlets including Scary Mommy, The 74, and The Hill. She is the mother of three school aged sons and calls Rhode Island home.

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