One of my favorite days in elementary school was when the Scholastic book
order sheets arrived. I would promptly look at every item, circle the
things I was interested in, and couldn’t wait to get home to talk to my mom about
what I could order. Then I’d sit with anticipation for the day to come
when the order would arrive.
Ahhhh, the smell of a book. It’s a sensation I still get sentimental
about. The smell of new books, old books, libraries, even the crack of a
spine for the first time.
Books are a gift. But knowing how to put the letters on the pages
together into words and then words into a sentence and sentences into
paragraphs that make sense, that’s a gift.
Much of the world is illiterate. One source suggests that 785 million adults worldwide are illiterate. 1 in 5 adults in the world cannot read. Something you and I take for granted given the fact that you are sitting here reading this on a computer or mobile device of some sort. What gets me beyond that is that 2 out of 3 of those are women. And, as we know women are often the ones who teach the next generation most any skill.
While a global issue, illiteracy is an issue much closer to home. The Ozark Literacy Council, Literacy Council of Benton County and the Northwest Arkansas Reading Council are all Northwest Arkansas organizations committed to changing those stats. Later this month, I’ll tackle some “did you know” facts about literacy and Arkansas, more specifically Northwest Arkansas. But, in 2003, the National Center for Education Statistics proposed that 13% of the adult population in Washington County (Fayetteville/Springdale) and 12% of adults in Benton Co (Rogers/Bentonville) lacked “basic prose literacy skills.” You and I would consider these some of the wealthiest places we have visited. But money does not determine literacy skill.
So, I ask the question “Do you remember who taught you to read?” This past weekend I went to The Bush Center and was struck by the No Child Left Behind exhibit. While
there are lots of opinions around this part of the Bush Administration, what I loved was the
commitment to free education for all. And, I love even more that Mrs. Bush was (is) so committed to education and reading that she was able to keep the committment to this platform during George W.’s administration.
I paused for a moment on Saturday afternoon and looked at this wall of books – Goodnight Moon,
Charlotte’s Web, Curious George, Little Bear, Little House on the Prarie, Bridge to Terebithia, Beezus and Ramona, Corduroy, Old Yeller, Hank the Cowdog, Clifford, and Dr. Seuss, they were all influential literary pieces in my background. Think about it. Reading words on a page unravel an adventure that a movie or TV show could never really capture.
Books and reading are a gift. Books open your mind to the world. Books take
you on adventures to places you would never visit. Books challenge you to
dream and imagine a world you could never know. Books tie cultures and
fashion and cuisine. Books let you explore character flaws you might not process on your own and introduce you to amazing people you might never meet.
What would your life be like if you couldn’t read?