*Originally posted 11/23/16*
“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
― Frederick Douglass
As an exercise, pause right now and think about everything you’ve done today that required reading. Did check your email when you woke up? What about locate the correct aisle in the grocery store? Find the right exit on your way to work? What about simply scrolling through your Facebook feed? Everyday tasks such as grocery shopping, navigating, and even taking in entertainment are made possible largely as a result of the ability to read, yet it is a skill we often take for granted.
As Frederick Douglass stated, reading is the path to freedom. Through reading and writing, we can learn and compare ideas. We are able to communicate our own thoughts, discover the thoughts of others, encounter new customs, and try new things. Reading teaches us about people and places beyond the scope of our own experiences and builds vital skills such as empathy and concentration.
Reading organizes and streamlines our lives; As a result of reading, we can decipher directions to put together furniture and read the instructions of our prescriptions. Reading allows us to make informed choices, to learn new skills, and keep in touch with loved ones. Plus, it’s fun.
Unfortunately, 1 in 7 people worldwide are cut off from these privileges because they cannot read or write. This number does not even include those living in a country in which they do not speak the language. Not only does this mean that those who cannot read are not able to do or benefit from all of the above activities, it also means they cannot inform themselves on important topics, often putting them at the mercy of those with more education.
The true cost of illiteracy is staggering. Those who cannot read or write will have difficulty finding employment, which means they will likely struggle with finances, finding adequate healthcare, and a host of other necessities. According to an article by Central Georgia Tech College, low literacy in adulthood can be connected to almost every socio-economic issue in the United States:
Voting, getting a driver’s license, or finding a good doctor all become difficult, if not impossible tasks without the ability to read and comprehend. All because of one small skill that most of us use every day without thinking.
THANKFULLY, there are those out there who are doing something to solve this problem. Individuals and organizations throughout the world have dedicated themselves to the mission of ending illiteracy and instilling mastery and a love of reading in both young and old.
There are a multitude of ways that you can join in these efforts. We have outlined a few of the larger organizations that are leading this mission below if you would like to join in their work. However, you can help improve literacy without ever spending a penny or even leaving your own city! Here’s how:
1. Read out loud: Studies show that being read to is one of the single greatest ways to build vocabulary, comprehension, and a positive association with reading. If you have someone in your life who cannot read, whether it is a child or adult, read to them. Read books, read signs, read cereal boxes, read everything! Make it a habit and demonstrate that reading isn’t a chore; it is a gateway to new worlds, skills, thoughts, and dreams.
2. Talk about what you’ve read: Just as important as the ability to read is the ability to comprehend what has been read. When you read with someone, carry it beyond the page. Restate the story in your own words and ask others to do the same. Ask questions such as: What are the motives of the characters? What would happen if the story where to continue or if a plot point were to change? What were the themes and messages to the story? Not only do these actions build comprehension skills, they build social skills such as empathy, listening, and the ability to respectfully discuss ideas.
3. Volunteer: Whether you like working with children or adults, there is sure to be an opportunity to help build literacy in your community. Check out your local Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, library, shelters, and centers for English Language Learners. Many of these organizations are in need of people to read, tutor, or even teach courses.
4. Donate: There are a multitude of organizations that collect and donate books to families in need. Organizations could include your local schools, libraries, shelters, Little Free Libraries, and hospitals. You could even leave a few books with a kind note attached for someone to find in a park!
If you would rather join in with already-established organizations, here are a few that are working hard each day to build literacy around the globe:
World Literacy Foundation- The World Literacy Foundation is working in partnership with 3,920 groups internationally across 25 countries, including Australia, UK, USA, and others in Africa and Latin America, with one common goal: to eradicate illiteracy in our lifetime. Through literacy, they aim to reduce poverty, improve health, increase employment and educational prospects, and see lives changed forever.
Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy-The mission of the Barbara Bush Foundation is to advocate for and establish literacy as a value in every home. Over the past 25 years, the Barbara Bush Foundation has sponsored 1,500 family literacy programs in 50 states for both children and adults by partnering with a network of high-performing local family literacy programs across the nation.
Book Aid- This organization is on a mission to ensure everyone has access to books that will enrich their lives and to support an environment in which "reading for pleasure, study and lifelong learning can flourish". In addition to donating books to people around the globe, Book Aid runs programs that give teachers and librarians skills to support and grow the readers and reading resources in their communities.
Reading Is Fundamental- Reading is Fundamental is the nation's largest nonprofit dedicated to childhood literacy. Through literacy programs and book donations, RIF connects emerging readers, teachers, and parents with the resources they need to create a culture of literacy.
These are just a few of the many literacy programs for children and adults across the nation with which you can get involved. To find a program operating near you, click on the organization links above.
The ability to read and write can, quite literally, change someone’s life. It is knowledge, freedom, and joy. Now go read a book, because you can!!
About Laughing Leopard Press
Hello! We are Laughing Leopard Press, an independent book publisher from Akron, Ohio. At Laughing Leopard Press, we’re interested in publishing works that contribute to our understanding of this wonderful world. Through this blog, we hope to add to that understanding with commentary on life, literature, and a few things in between. We hope you enjoy the blog and take some time to talk with us in the comments or on our social media sites. Happy reading!
This is A. Blob by L. A Kefalos. $14.95
$1.00 is donated to charity for each book sold on this site--half to St. Jude's and the other half to PetFix Northeast Ohio.