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.

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