Sunday, December 18, 2011

For Literacy

I realize the importance of reading and how it has helped me throughout my life, but according to facts at, 63 million adults in the U.S. over 16 years of age can't understand a newspaper article written at the eighth grade level. It states that this accounts for 29 percent of the adult population.

The story gets worse. "An additional 30 million — 14 percent of the country’s adult population — can only read at a fifth grade level or lower," it states.

I've loved reading ever since I was a child. I attribute it to my mother, who read to the four of us every day. The Joliet (Illinois) Herald was delivered daily, and The Spectator was delivered weekly. When the Chicago Tribune came to our area, my parents immediately subscribed to it. My mother received it until she died Jan. 8, 2011 at the age of 90.

How can "readers" help? First off, parents can read to their children. That's the start. If they aren't readers, there's hope. Siblings can reach to each other. Teachers can read to their students. Teens can form study circles and help each other. Those who have the inclination can volunteer at their local literacy councils and teach people to read.

I was a member of Literacy Volunteers of America before it merged with Laubach Literacy International and formed Proliteracy. I taught a woman from Thailand to read English. Her eyes lit up when she recognized a couple featured in the newspaper who happened to be her next door neighbors. She was able to read that they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. She was the success story. Others were defeated because it is difficult to learn to read as an adult. Reading, however, is the key to success on many levels.

I've taken the training at Brunswick County Literacy Council and have volunteered for that organization. I'm waiting to be assigned a student so I can help someone else experience that wonderful feeling of knowing what the names of streets are, what's on a menu and what teachers say in the notes they send home.

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