I was a very blessed child. Over the course of my life, my parents made it possible for me to do extensive traveling. I have been to Paris, France. I have walked among the sands of deserts, visited almost every state in our great country. I have spent quite a bit of time all over England, have traversed the countryside in Italy. I know the feel of an ocean liner beneath my feet and have felt the wind on my face as I stuck my head out of the window of a fast moving train. With a few exceptions, I have done all of this without ever leaving home. How did I do it? Through books. Lots and lots of books.
I love to read. Whether it be fiction, farming related, the Bible or study guides, I absolutely love the written word. My Mom started me early with trips to the Library. Throughout my life time I have read some of the most well-known writers, like Carolyn Keane and her Nancy Drew series, to some rather off-the-wall books such as Being Dead is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral by Gaydon Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays. (An absolute hilarious look at some of our Southern customs, definite a must read!) We have an extensive library here in the house – to the point where we have been seriously considering putting shelves up along the walls in the entry way, an otherwise unused room, just to have a place for books that are beginning to stack up all over the house.
You can just imagine my horror when I think about the Literacy statistics in this country. According to The Literacy Project Organization, there are approximately 44 million adults who can’t even read a bedtime story to their children; between 46% and 51% of American adults have an income well below the poverty level because of their inability to read; and approximately 50% of Americans read so poorly that they are unable to perform simple tasks such as reading prescription drug labels.* These figures are just staggering to me.
I came across some of this information while assisting my Mom with research on Literacy. As a Literacy volunteer tutor/trainer, she has a student that is hard of hearing, and is having difficulty teaching him how a letter sounds. If Adult Literacy was a battle, this woman would be at least a 3 Star General, if not the Full Bird. She has worked diligently with students for over twenty years, has attended many workshops, trainings and seminars. She branched out and has learned how to work with Dyslexic students. I love to sit and listen to her about the progress she is making – one person at a time.
Where does illiteracy begin? No one really knows, but at least a part of the reason is thought to be that a child’s parents are illiterate, so they never read their children bedtime stories. Consequently, the child is not introduced to the wonders of reading at an early age, and ends up struggling to understand the importance of the written word. Instead, they would much prefer to be out on the sports field, or working with their hands. What they don’t realize yet is that no matter what you do in life, the tasks you undertake can be greatly enhanced by reading up on the subject. Even most sports have game plans, and hand work – whether weaving on a loom or assembling an engine – has manuals that can help you understand how to do it.
Take a minute to think about everything you have read today. Was it a memo from the boss? A new recipe you have been wanting to try? A teaching plan? Were you transported to another world through a great mystery? Or was it just a post on Facebook? I don’t know the statistics, but I am willing to guess that every person is faced with no less than 100 words per day that they have read and comprehended. Now think about those whose eyes only see a bunch of squiggly lines, and no discernable words, directions or instructions. Can you feel their frustration?
Isn’t it time we shared this knowledge and experience with others? Take the time today to read a book to a child. Sit down with your young child and read his assigned books with him. Make it fun by acting out some of the parts, and getting them on the bandwagon to act out others. Ask them about what they have just read. Read a passage of something interesting to your spouse. Visit the nursing homes and volunteer to read to the elderly. Offer to be part of a summer reading program at your local library. Or go one better. Jump in with both feet and learn how to teach others how to read. It may not be much, but through concerted efforts, maybe we can lower those poverty numbers by a percent or two.
The old ad campaign was all too accurate: “Reading is FUNdamental”. Reading is one of the basic building blocks to a future with endless possibilities. And wouldn’t it be wonderful to present a beautiful future to someone who otherwise may never get to fully enjoy life? By doing so, you may just have a better outlook on your own future.
Need some help getting started? If you want to volunteer, let me know. I can put you in touch with the ‘General’, and she may be able to point you in the direction of a Literacy Tutor/Trainer class in your area. And as always – please let me know what you think about this, or share your own story: memories of bedtime stories, or great books you have read and recommend to others. I can’t wait to hear from you!