Thinking about literacy … and asking for your insights

Family Literacy Day

When you have it, do you just kind of take literacy for granted?

It’s second nature for those of blogging and tweeting and conversing about books to be engaged with words, and to understand them on many levels, from the instructional to the soul deepening. We plough through books and magazines and articles and blogs. With heedless joy, we update our read and to-be-read lists. We even blithely misuse or misunderstand words at times, but that comes from a foundation of at least being able to comprehend them. From there, we can study and correct and learn from them. It all comes as naturally as breathing, doesn’t it?

The many joys of reading, not to mention essential survival skills, are simply not possible without basic literacy.

This past January 27th has been designated Family Literacy Day for about the past 12 years. We can and should venerate and celebrate literacy and wish it for others every day. But I suspect we need to do more than wish it. We who are fortunate to have it need to help others who don’t have it.

To be honest, I guess I’m naive or not really versed in how someone gets to a certain point in their life minus the ability to understand street signs, newspaper headlines, warning labels on product packaging or equipment, nutritional information on food, restaurant menus … not to mention books and their many delights. (In another context – a vivid defence of the value of libraries – author Philip Pullman referred to books stirringly as “… the expression of the human spirit, vessels of delight or of consolation or enlightenment.” Oh, that some of our fellow citizens are missing that …)

I’m not sure I’ve expressed my gratitude as well or as precisely as I’d like to, but the fact that I can at all and at least some of you reading these words will understand … well, that’s testament again to the power of literacy to bridge gaps, extend one’s thoughts, establish communication, make connections.

When I reach an upcoming milestone in the Twitter book community, I want to further express my gratitude by giving to a literacy organization. That is, when I reach and exceed 1,000 followers, that is something of a modest symbol to me of the richly literate environment I’ve enjoyed, learned from and thrived in, thanks to so many of you reading this. Where I would ask for your insights, fellow booklovers, is in suggesting to me how best a donation can be channelled to help someone else enjoy what we enjoy. In the comments or in your tweets, please suggest any organizations or initiatives you think are effective in this area. If possible, I’d like to contribute locally, so something in Toronto, Ontario or Canada would be of particular interest.

Thanks for listening … and reading.

4 thoughts on “Thinking about literacy … and asking for your insights

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