The Homeless and Their Children by Jonathon Kozol

In writing “The Homeless and Their Children”, Jonathon Kozol, uses emotion to raise the awareness of “the effects of literacy on the lives of the poor” (Kozol, page 304). He also used an interview form, to not only show his audience how the main character feels in her own words, but puts himself into the situation if only for a short time. The author states that “more than one-third of America’s adults are at least partially illiterate, we should organize a massive Government and volunteer army to liberate people in prisoned by illiteracy” (Kozol, page 304).

Jonathon Kozol, for over forty years, has been “deeply involved in social justice work” (Wikipedia, page 1). The book, Rachel and Her Children, from which the core reading was taken “received the Robert F. Kennedy award for 1989 and the Conscience of the American Society of Journalist and Authors” (Jonathon Kozol, page 1). He taught for years in poor public schools. In his writings, Kozol tries to show the “difference between schools affluent neighborhoods and those by children of the poor” (AEI page 2).

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In the core reading, Kozol states that “some twelve-hundred children” (Kozol page 304), lived in a hotel that housed the homeless in 1985. Kozol uses a woman whose name he changes, “I will call her Laura” (Kozol, page 305), to illustrate how illiteracy can affect some one’s life. He uses Laura’s children to make the audience feel the pain that illiteracy can cause. For example, in the passages “a seven year old boy named Matthew has been sick for several weeks” (Kozol, page 305), and “My daughter is four months. And she has a rash” (Kozol, page 306), causes the audience to feel sympathy for their situation.

Kozol even uses other children in the hotel to draw in the audience, “a child on the fourteenth floor fell…and cut his forehead, and required stitches” (Kozol page 305). Kozol uses Laura’s own words to show afraid she is. Statements like “Somebody can take my children” (Kozol, page 307) and “the manager…Mr. Tuccelly…He had a gun” (Kozol, page 307) draws the audience into her fear. The author also uses the fact that the children do not get anything for Christmas, “Christmas, they don’t got” (Kozol, page 310)”, The author uses the description of the horrible living conditions in the hotel to make the udience more aware of the situation. “The bathroom plumbing has overflowed has left a pool of sewage” (Kozol, page 305) and “The carpets, they was filthy” (Kozol, page 306) and “greenish paint smeared over with sludge draining from some one’s plumbing” (Kozol, page 306) are descriptions the author uses to show just how bleak the living conditions of Laura and her children really were. I couldn’t understand why the author didn’t offer any solutions in the core reading. But, as I began to analyze the selection, I realized by the author using just the interview, in Laura’s own words, I began to empathize with her situation.

With her broken speech Laura states her fears and her embarrassment about her sad life. She worried about how she would feed her children “this week we don’t have food” (Kozol, page 307). He uses this to motivate his audience to get involved and to “shake our nation out of its guilty indifference” (Jonathon Kozol, page 1). Jonathon Kozol wrote this and other books to make all of us more aware of the poor and the less fortunate, and to motivate people to volunteer to help with illiteracy. In doing so, improve their lives tremendously. Jonathon Kozol continues to write books about illiteracy and the decline of our schools.

He has “founded and is running a non-profit called Cambridge Institute for Public Education” (Wikipedia, page 2). He not only wants everyone else involved in the fight against illiteracy, but is actively involved in the “army” himself. The author makes his point to show how illiteracy can have dire consequences and can affect every aspect of a person’s life. In using this form of writing in Laura’s own words, the audience becomes emotionally involved with her plight. Making the situation seem more believable, and giving the reader a glance through a small window into her life.

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The Homeless and Their Children by Jonathon Kozol. (2017, Mar 09). Retrieved from