November is “National Family Literacy Month.” This month reminds families to take some time out of their day and get back into the tradition of reading together. Most of us have fond memories of having a parent read to us as a child; for some of us, this made us become avid readers and critical thinkers.
Illiteracy is a growing problem in our nation. The United States ranks 16th in adult reading skills among developed nations. In a democratic society, success depends on an informed citizenry who can efficiently participate in the democratic process.
Professor of English Ursula McTaggart said, “If we want to be good citizens, we need to read national and domestic news stories and also analyses of those news stories. It’s not enough to know what happened but to think about why it happened and whether it is ethical or not. We can’t come to every determination on our own or simply rely on our friends and family to gather opinions – we need to read varied opinions from experts, novices, and community members.”
Literacy is not simply being able to read and write at a basic level; it is about being able to interact with and interpret ideas. Being literate makes you better informed and smarter. It is a critical skill in every aspect of your life.
Bonnie Erwin, Professor of English, said, “Literacy is about being able to deeply understand what you read and to write persuasively in response to those conversations. Literate people are less easily manipulated by others: they know b.s. when they see it, and they can spot when someone is using words to try to steer them away from their own values. The old adage says that the pen is mightier than the sword. Only by being literate do you get to be the slayer rather than the slain.”
If you think literacy does not affect you… think again. Most jobs require a resume and a cover letter. Having a solid literacy foundation will put you above someone else who may not possess such skills.
Erwin said, “Literate people also know how to use writing to bend the world to their own advantage, for the good of their own career prospects and even for the good of their communities.”
Literacy can not only have an effect on your professional life but on your romantic life as well. In this age of technology, people are using apps and online dating more than ever. A study performed by Zoosk found that 48% of the people in the survey consider grammar to be a deal breaker in online dating. 65% of women would let bad grammar get in the way of a first date. The study also found that 72% of the participants were “turned off” by blatant spelling errors.
As Education Professor Jeradi Cohen said, “Literacy lights the way.”