Sunday, October 8, 2017

How Literacy Influences Us

How many times did you stop to read something today—a text message, directions to a lunch meeting, instructions to prepare breakfast, a street sign, a pamphlet? Literacy affects every single person in the world. Being able to read is a huge source of empowerment that lots of Americans take for granted daily. Imagine how many things you would be discouraged from doing if reading was a barrier. Would you be able to perform your job? Often, reading and answering emails and invoices, processing documents, and even interpreting phone messages are daily tasks that would be impossible.

Aside from work and household functions, simply understanding what is happening in the world would have to come from auditory sources. Social media outlets, newspapers, magazines, and other print would be completely inaccessible. The effect can be ostracizing and result in feelings of loneliness.

This cycle of empowerment starts as young as grade school. Unfortunately, one in four children grows up without learning how to read. Inability to read by the end of third grade means quadruple the chance of a kid dropping out of school, while inability to read by the end of age four drastically increases the chances of ending up on welfare or even in jail. The correlation is so strong that prison systems have been known to use primary school data as a predictor for necessary resource allocation in the future.

Countries with low rates of literacy typically also have lower life expectancy, less social inclusion, and higher poverty levels, whereas countries with high literacy rates show the opposite trends. In general, being able to read is positively correlated with social support and a sense of community. Regardless of the United States’ ninety nine percent literacy level, there is incentive to decrease illiteracy even further. Unemployment, poverty, and welfare assistance are still significant issues that affect not only individuals, but the entire country.

By starting early and being preventative toward illiteracy, these phenomena can gradually decrease and ultimately disappear. Encouraging kids to read whatever they are interested in is a great place to start. Taking children to the library, asking them about what they are reading, and being engaged about literacy will go far when it comes to fostering a love of reading. Ideally, children will be able to converse about their reading material and start to foster the related social connections that become so important. Well connected, literate kids are happier, healthier kids.

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