Welcome to September! I’m a proud Rotarian, and for Rotary, September is Literacy Month – a topic near and dear to my heart. I know I’ve discussed my love of reading in previous WealthNotes (like this one: Easy Way to Increase Your Empathy) so you may not be surprised to hear that I hate the idea that so many people in the world – and in this country, lack basic literacy skills.
Worldwide, more than 775 million people over the age of 15 are illiterate – that’s 17% of the world’s adult population.
Here in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Education, 54% of U.S. adults 16-74 years old – about 130 million people – lack proficiency in literacy, reading below the equivalent of a sixth-grade level.
Adults with low levels of literacy are more likely to experience poorer employment opportunities and lower income. This can lead to things like welfare dependency and higher levels of crime. People with the lowest levels of literacy can struggle to do common things like fill out forms and applications or read and understand medicine labels.
And, unsurprisingly, the children of adults with low literacy tend to have lower levels of literacy themselves.
What can be done? There are a lot of organizations – like Rotary – working hard to help increase literacy. If you’d like to do something yourself, here are five ways to help:
Volunteer with your local literacy program: Chances are there is a library near you that has reading programs – many offer one-to-one and small group tutoring programs. Or see if they need volunteers to read to younger children during story time. Fostering a love of reading in children is hands-down the best way to combat illiteracy.
Volunteer with incarcerated people: Adult literacy goes along with poverty and incarceration. Studies show up to 75% of people incarcerated in the U.S. are illiterate and education programs in prisons can be an effective form of rehabilitation. If you aren’t near a prison or can’t volunteer, consider donating to a Prison Book Program.
Donate books: Check with your local library to see if they accept donations, or donate to schools, shelters or community centers. Many households do not have any books and easy access to free or low-cost books can help change that. One of my Rotary club’s signature annual projects gives a dictionary to Licking County third graders. While it may seem that a hard copy dictionary is out of place today, many of the recipients are so excited because it is the first book they’ve ever owned.
Contribute to tiny libraries: If you live in the city or suburbs, you’ve probably seen a tiny library, a growing trend of tiny structures offering a protected place for people to give and take books. Drop off a few of your gently used books. If you want to build your own, Little Free Library has lots of plans and ideas.
Support Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library: If you haven’t heard of this, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book gifting program that mails a free book once a month to children from birth to age five. It’s designed to inspire a love of reading in children and raise literacy rates. Register a child in your life or help a family you know get their child registered. Or donate to help support the Imagination Library mission. Learn more at imaginationlibrary.com.
Increasing literacy is so impactful for our society and for individuals. During Literacy Month – or any month – consider getting involved in some small way and help others live a great life!
Written by Michelle O’Brien, Marketing & Communications Manager
Source: Nakamura, K. (2021) 5 Ways You Can Help Improve Literacy on a Local Level. Globalcitizen.org https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/improve-literacy-local/