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26 June 2012

(Il)Literacy Continues to Be a Challenge in the USA

As I'm sure I have posted previously, one of the first volunteer activities I wanted to do when I arrived in Chicago, when I felt financially secure and under no obligations beyond the 40-60 hours/week demanded by my employer, was tutoring adults who wanted to learn to read.  I have written about this before: I see adult illiteracy as an affront to our nation and the responsibility of all of us Americans to confront and correct. 

It continues to be a challenge, as highlighted in NPR's current series Front and Center about illiteracy in the USA.  Illiterates are usually not stupid.  In fact, they are probably very smart, surviving in a world in which knowing how to read something as straightforward as a street sign can be a challenge, and that an honest but avoidable mistake could cost.  Do you really want to leave janitorial tasks to someone who might mix ammonia with bleach, because the contents of the jugs as well as the jugs look the same, but there were not giant letters, A and B, on them?  Do we really want someone who is smart enough to have started a business which creates jobs and value in the community to be limited to a day laborer job, because she has dyslexia or another neglected obstacle which prevented her from learning how to read? 

Unfortunately, I no longer believe I have the necessary time to be such a direct influence, but I do feel Books on First does its part and hope it can do more.  We of course provide books and magazines for sale.  There are reading discussions continuously with and among customers.  We allow people to come in and tutor.  We participated in and encouraged customers to participate in World Book Night.  Let me know what else you think we can do to help obliterate illiteracy, today in Sauk Valley, tomorrow in the world.

Aim globally.  Think locally.  Act personally.

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