Dr. Rachell N. Anderson
Many people think literacy a simple question of being able to read, but there is more to the issue. A person who is able to read but rarely does is not much better off than one who has never learned to read. Whether you can’t or can, but don’t read, you are, functionally illiterate.
Many people love to read because it’s entertaining, fun and can take them to places they’re never been. Reading teaches us about the world and helps us develop empathy. In addition, according to Scholastic “each time you turn a page, your brain lights up -- reading is a workout for the mind, body and soul.” According to Dr. Robert S. Wilson of the Rush University Medical Center “reading has strong, positive effects on the brain. It increases concentration and memory, improves language abilities and grows brain cells in children.” Also, when children read, they are able to plan out an action in their heads and solve new problems in real life. Children are encouraged to read to find out more about the world in which they live and use that information to improve their lives.
According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, “Reading is the single most important skill necessary for a happy, productive and successful life.”
It’s not just children who benefit. Reading slows the process of cognitive decline in adults. Reading has a positive effect on the body as well. Reading can relieve stress better than listening to music or taking a walk.
Reading skills are essential to function in our society. The world requires that adults are able to read and understand basic texts; function in the workplace; pay bills; understand legal and financial documents, and navigate technology. Advanced reading comprehension skills are required to figure out the technological advances being made everyday in our society. Try figuring out how to program an I-phone, for instance.
Widespread illiteracy not only leads to lower education and employment rates, it is also linked to increased crime and incarceration with a high social and economic cost. In the National Adult Literacy Survey, participants completed a series of literacy tasks and received proficiency scores in prose, document, and quantitative literacy. Higher scores were associated with being employed, working more weeks during the year, and having higher wages. Lower levels of literacy correlated with high levels of poverty, unemployment and incarceration. The National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS) found that between 21% and 24% of U.S. adults performed at the lowest level on all three scales. Illiteracy has profound effects on society.
Duane Alexander, director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found when there is a large number of adults whose literacy skills are too low to perform normal, day-to-day tasks, communities suffer. On average, adults at the lowest levels of literacy earn about $230-$245 per week, work only 18-19 weeks each year, are more than three times as likely to receive food stamps as compared to of those who read at the highest levels. They are almost ten times more likely to be living below the poverty line (41%-44% as compared to 4%-8%). Alexander further found and that many children living in poverty lack the skills that will allow them to become lifelong readers. A person with low reading ability may not be able to read signs, understand medical information or prescription directions, or apply for jobs that require basic skills tests.
Readers think critically about what they’ve read and make connections to their own lives and as a result, they are likely to have a better life.
What’s a Person To Do?
1. Get a good book and read. Our local libraries have plenty of them. Read to yourself, your children, grandchildren and anyone you can get to be part of this experience. It’s a bonding experience that also cements the love for reading and its life long value.
2. Read to your children and have them read out loud to you. They’ll get better with time and your listening ears.
3. Become a tutor at a nearby school. Teaching helps you to learn.
3. Take, or teach an Adult Education Classes. They’re fun.
4. Share books with others. Sharing experiences is contagious.
Dr. Rachell Anderson is a licensed Clinical Psychologist, a Professor Emeritus, author and a native of Tunica. She taught at the University of Illinois and ran a Private Clinical Practice in Springfield, Illinois for many years. She now lives and writes in Tunica, Mississippi. Check out her website at WWW.drrachellanderson.com for more articles and books.