a relatively trivial problem vis-à-vis the massive ecological problems of sustainability of life currently facing the planet , I believe that learning to read is just as urgent a contributing human factor to addressing the serious ecological problems of sustainability for at least two reasons:
a. It affects the maintenance of democracy as we know it.
b. It ensures that society will continually be able to produce the cohorts of creative thinkers and problem solvers needed to address and resolve the dominant global ecological, social, economic, scientific ethical, and moral issues related to sustaining our species on a planet with finite resources.
With respect to a) above most educational scientists from modern Western democracies agree that high levels of reading ability are an essential prerequisite for supporting and strengthening the forms of participatory democracy we value. To this end we need schools dedicated to producing an informed, critical citizenry prepared to participate in and sustain a democratic society. Without a citizenry of effective, critical readers, this becomes extremely difficult. Given the relationship between literacy and democracy it is imperative for schools to produce graduates who are highly effective readers. This outcome would be significantly enhanced if we had a scientifically derived pedagogy for ensuring that the majority of students acquired the levels of reading which are needed to support a truly participatory democracy.
With respect to b) above it is obvious that regular cohorts of highly literate school graduates are essential for creating an on-going, national supply of talented researchers, theory-builders, thinkers, and problem solvers across all domains of knowledge and expertise. In an age when human problems facing the planet are rapidly increasing, the ability to read and comprehend complex written texts, whether screen-based or book/paper-based, is essential. How else will society as a whole be able to identify and construct the knowledge needed to address and resolve these complex problems and issues? Add to this the exponential rate at which information is increasing , and the need for readers who can quickly understand and critically evaluate the truth-value of the multiple textual messages with which they’re being continually bombarded, becomes even more urgent.
Unfortunately at the time of writing, we’re not even close to developing a definitive pedagogy for teaching reading. Why? Fundamentally because Reading Education has always been highly contested field of inquiry, with a long history of debate about the “best” pedagogy for teaching reading.