Literacy – A Necessary Anchor in Life

Literacy is one of my life anchors. 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 France, England, and the Arctic Circle.  My feet have traversed the sands of deserts and ocean bottoms. And I have visited almost every state in our great country.

three wooden blocks that read words have power

Quite a bit of my time has been spent all over Australia, and I 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 very few exceptions, I have done all of this without ever leaving home!  How did I do it?  Through books.  Lots and lots of books.

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I Love to Read

home library filled with books of fiction, gardening, devotionals, and more

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 lifetime 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, definitely 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.

Literacy Statistics

pair of black rimmed glasses sitting next to an open book

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 45 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.

reading flash cards with simple words such as no, it, go, the, and, here, of

I came across some of this information while assisting my Mom with research on Literacy.  As a Literacy volunteer tutor/trainer, she had a student that was hard of hearing, and had difficulty teaching him how a letter sounds.  If Adult Literacy was a battle, this woman would have been at least a 3 Star General. 

She worked diligently with students for over twenty years, attended many workshops, trainings and seminars.  She branched out and learned how to work with Dyslexic students.  I loved to sit and listen to her about the progress she made – one person at a time.

Where Does Illiteracy Begin?

bookshelf filled with fiction and nonfiction books, magazines, a pink and white flowered tea set and a tea set with a rabbit wearing a green coat and carry an orange carrot

No one really knows, but at least a part of the reason is thought to be that a child’s parents may be borderline illiterate, so they never read their children bedtime stories.  Others may struggle with Dyslexia, a neurological condition that affects the way someone reads. Others struggle with comprehension, and reading becomes a chore, rather than enjoyable.

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 avoid reading altogether and be out on the sports field or working with their hands.

What a child doesn’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 handwork – whether weaving on a loom or assembling an engine – has manuals that can help you understand how to do it.

What Did you Read Today?

stack of craft books including Making Handmade Books, Respect the Spindle, Potholder Loom Weaving, Techniques in Card Weaving, and Yarn Hooking

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?

It is estimated that the average person reads approximately 1,000 words per day. 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?

It’s Past Time

the word Literacy spelled out in letter blocks, with other letter blocks surrounding it

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 homework assignments 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.

It Really is Fun!

group of laughing women in a book club with a table set with coffee mugs and plates of cookies

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, look for a Literacy Tutor/Trainer class in your area. Check with your local library and volunteer association.

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!

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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