Ever thought about false illiteracy?

How hard would it be to shop if you couldnt read? My thoughts on "learned literacy". | #NWArkCares #literacy

I was sitting in a Starbucks earlier this month talking with a friend about reading, literacy and all the things that have been circling my mind this month.  We are both in marketing professions and I was struck by something we both realized.

How many people go through life never knowing how to read but have “learned” literacy to a point that makes them functional in society in a way that no one knows?

Then as marketers/designers/strategists, it really hit me to think about what we do in our creative ways to change product shape, labels, even colors of things that our society has accepted as standard.  It doesn’t affect us, but what does it to do folks with “learned literacy.”  What are some of the products that have an iconic shape to you?

  • coke bottle
  • bandaid
  • butter
  • biscuits
  • shampoo
  • vitamins
  • eggs
  • milk
  • 2 L soda

I know how confused and overwhelmed I am when I stand in front of the biscuit section – cinnamon rolls, cookies, pizza dough, wheat pizza dough, loaf bread, crescent rolls.  How hard would it be to pick out any of those if you didn’t know how to read?  Yogurt, juice, sodas, lunch meat, bread, coffee, baking ingredients.  How hard would it be to shop at a grocery store if you couldn’t read?

When this thought originally hit me, I was sitting eye level to the drink bin at Starbucks by the register.  There was water in a square bottle, water in a smooth bottle with a rounded top, and fancy, clean water in a non-plastic container.  In our attempt to be fancy, clean, and marketable have we over complicated it?

I don’t have an answer and I don’t want to condemn and of my marketing pals.  I’ve just been chewing on this and thought I’d through it out for more discussion. 

And, maybe it’s not just those with “learned literacy” that are feeling overwhelmed….


This post is part of a monthly series with other Northwest Arkansas Bloggers.  This compassionate and powerful group has committed to using their voice to bring chatter and discussion to topics that touch, affect and challenge our communities.  This month, September, we are pondering: Literacy. Follow along and join the conversation #NWArkCares.