Do we take literacy for granted?

Books

“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories. Literacy is a platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right…. Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.”
― Kofi Annan

My parents taught me how to read when I was four years old.  Avid readers themselves,  they passed on their love of books to their children.  By the wise old age of five, I was a bona fide bookworm.  The library, not the candy store, was my favorite place to be.  When I was eleven, I started tutoring kids (my own age and younger) in English and Reading.  This valuable teaching experience made me acutely aware that literacy was not something that should be taken for granted. 

It also taught me  a thing or two about empathy and compassion. 

Today, in the second decade of the 21st century, the problem of illiteracy not only persists… it has actually multiplied.   According to the most recent  (April 28, 2013) data compiled by the U.S. Department of Education’s  National Institute for Literacy,  the illiteracy statistics in America (and around the world) are quite sobering:

United States:

  • 14% of adults can’t read – that’s 32 million adults
  • 21% of adults read below a 5th grade level
  • 63% of prison inmates can’t read
  • 19% of high school graduates can’t read  (this is truly disturbing)

Worldwide:

  • 774 million people can’t read
  • 66% of the world’s illiterate are female

There is no shame or disgrace in being illiterate.

There is, however, a good deal of both shame and disgrace in a system which allows a child to graduate from high school, without having the ability to read.

Although there are many solid literacy initiatives in place, such as No Child Left Behind, there is still much work to be done. 

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” 
― Frederick Douglass

Image via athome.readinghorizons.com.

Bookworms of the World, Unite!

read-books

“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

― Dr. Seuss, “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”

Books, glorious books!  They are scattered around my house and I carry one in my bag, wherever I go.  When I’m not reading a book, I’m writing one.

Today, the day that both Miguel de Cervantes  and William Shakespeare died (two of several literary giants who died on April 23rd, 1616), is World Book and Copyright Day — created by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to pay worldwide tribute to books and to the authors who write them.

Introducing the world of books to someone — a child, or even an adult — is like opening a locked door, behind which lies the path to knowledge and empowerment.

“I have often reflected upon the new vistas that reading opened to me.  I knew right there in prison that reading had changed forever the course of my life.  As I see it today, the ability to read awoke in me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.”    

Malcolm X

Today, in this second decade of the new Millennium, our busy lives often preclude us from taking time out to read a book.  Make the time… please.  I cannot emphasize enough the importance of  reading.  It exercises the mind, stretches the imagination, opens up new worlds and is far more enthralling and entertaining than a television sitcom (in my opinion). 

If you can’t spare the time, carry a book in your bag – just in case. Rather than complain about the long wait time in the dentist’s office or at the airport, just open up a book and read.  Before you know it, the plane will be boarding or the dental hygienist will be beckoning you to come on in.

As for me, I concur with the late President Thomas Jefferson, who said (simply and succinctly):

“I cannot live without books.”

Image via worksmartlivesmart.com.